Today in OpenGov: Parsing the White House ethics waivers, providing local open data feedback, and more…

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In today’s edition, we parse the White House’s newly released ethics waivers, ask for your input on local open data policy, get excited about the Census Bureau’s move to HTTPS by default, and more…

trumpland

  • Under pressure, White House publicly discloses ethics waivers. “The White House publicly disclosing the ethics waivers online tonight on its website was a step in the right direction. This action will help to reassure the public that there is in fact some basic level of ethics oversight happening, despite President Trump’s refusal to abide by the same basic ethical standards that apply to the rest of the federal government.” One big takeaway: The Trump White House has given out about as many ethics waivers in four months (17) as the Obama White House did in eight years. (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • You can find more coverage of the White House ethics waivers in the New York Times and POLITICO. Top aides receiving waivers include Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and at least four former lobbyists. 
  • Justice Department refuses to release U.S. Attorney resignation letters that they didn’t bother to read. “The Justice Department decided to keep secret on privacy grounds the resignation letters from nearly 50 U.S. attorneys ousted by the Trump administration without first reading any of the letters, public records show.” Sunlight’s Alex Howard weighed in with a simple “wow” before following up, explaining; “these are not spies coming in from the cold. These are not people who have been subject to targeted harassment or are being prosecuted for illegal actions…they’re U.S. attorneys resigning from office, and the circumstances of that should be known to the public.” (Burlington Free Press)
  • California lawmakers move to mandate tax return transparency for presidential primary. “Legislation to require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns in order to gain a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot won passage in the state Senate on Wednesday, but only after a tense debate that largely centered on President Trump.” (Los Angeles Times) While Congress has failed to act to reassert this democratic norm, we’re glad to see states moving to require transparency.

states and cities

  • Four What Works Cities are looking for public feedback on their open data reforms. “For over a year, Sunlight’s Open Cities Team has researched ‘crowdlaw,’ an open and collaborative method for drafting policy online in a public space. Crowdlaw offers an important alternative to closed-door policymaking by allowing any interested party to bring their ideas and expertise into the process. It also increases the public’s ability to hold lawmakers accountable for incorporating the ideas and feedback shared by these participants.” Currently, Tempe, Glendale, Nashville, and Durham are embracing crowdlaw to gather feedback on their open data efforts! (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • Pasadena, Texas is anything but transparent and state records laws haven’t provided much help. “Harris County’s second-largest city has about 154,000 people, an annual budget of $207 million and a long track record of making it difficult for residents to obtain public information, according to interviews, newspaper archives and the Chronicle’s records requests. Nearby La Porte, less than a quarter of the size, posts all of its capital projects and financial information online, along with check register data since 2013.” (Government Technology)
  • Despite campaign rhetoric, Missouri governor is embracing opacity in office. “But money isn’t the only issue. Greitens campaigned on the idea of openness, but he forced members of his transition team to sign gag orders banning them from speaking about their work. When he appears in public, Greitens sometimes brushes off reporters by telling them to make a request through staff, who in turn often tell them their requests aren’t a priority.” (Governing)
  • A culture of corruption in South Carolina’s prison system. “An investigation by The Charlotte Observer found that state prison policies and management failures allow corruption to thrive. Officers and staff have orchestrated illegal smuggling operations, beaten shackled inmates and engaged in sex with prisoners.” (Charlotte Observer)

in other news

  • The Census Bureau embraces HTTPS for its API, part of a larger trend. “one of the nation’s premier statistical agencies is shifting to a secure connection by default for secure public access to information on the World Wide Web…The Census Bureau migration, however, is part of a much broader effort that will help rebuild public trust in federal government Web services.” (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • Biden launches PAC, 2020 speculation. “On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden will launch a new PAC, American Possibilities, giving him a way to support Democratic political candidates while keeping his own options open for a potential 2020 presidential run.” (POLITICO)
  • New York Times eliminates public editor position, raising accountability questions. “Relying on social media critiques and angry voices in the comment sections is a curious way of replacing an experienced journalist who could offer nuance and perspective while writing with the institutional backing of the nation’s most influential newspaper. The move comes at a moment when public confidence in the media is at an all-time low. In a time when the value of introspection and transparency is at a premium, cutting a position designed to provide both smacks of self-satisfaction and a misreading of the current media landscape.” (Columbia Journalism Review)

around the world

mySociety
  • A focus on data quality may be the next big thing in open data. “The open data community needs to shift focus from mass data publication towards an understanding of good data quality. Yet, there is no shared definition what constitutes ‘good’ data quality.” (Open Knowledge)
  • Meanwhile, mySociety is using Wikidata and public participation to boost data quality on their EveryPolitician project. “The experiments will focus on using Wikidata to attempt to answer some questions we find interesting and see how we can expose gaps and inconsistencies in the data. In doing this, we’ll be pointing to specific reports we have generated and asking you to help us fill in the gaps.” (mySociety)
  • French President Macron faces early test in nepotism allegations against two ministers. “The reports pose a dilemma for Macron, who promised to return “morality to public life” after the embezzlement and nepotism scandals surrounded his rivals for the presidency, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen, during the election campaign earlier this year.” (POLITICO)

save the dates

  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Check out the panels and Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
  • June 12th through 14th: Canadian Open Data Summit in Edmonton, Canada. “The Canadian Open Data Summit (CODS) is an annual event where the most pressing challenges facing the open data and open government communities are addressed on a national scale.” Learn more here.
  • June 12th through 14th: Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC. “We are bringing government, education, and nonprofit technology leaders from around the world to Washington, D.C this June 12-14, 2017 for the eighth annual AWS Public Sector Summit. Spend three, action-packed days with the innovators who are changing the world with cloud computing. You’ll go home with new strategies and techniques to accomplish new projects, maximize budgets, and achieve your mission that you didn’t think possible.” Learn more and register here.
  • June 14th, 11am EST: Using EITI to Disclose Social and Environmental Information Related to Extractive Activities, Webinar. The OGP Openness in Natural Resources Working Group is hosting this webinar aimed “at stakeholders, including representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector, who work on, or are interested in, transparency around socio-environmental information related to the oil, gas and mining sector. It will include a discussion on current trends, opportunities, and challenges regarding socio-environmental transparency and whether/how EITI can be a tool to disclose such information.” RSVP here.
  • June 27th: Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in Washington, DC. “The Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2017 (#LDTC17), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place on Tuesday, June 27, 2017in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. The #LDTC17 brings individuals from Legislative Branch agencies together with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future.” Learn more here.
  • June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. “The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector.” Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. “TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts.” The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.

 

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