Today in OpenGov: Swamp in DC filling as planet warms

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In today's edition, we look at attempts to turn up the flow of water data in cities, learn more about Tom Price's investment in health care investments, note an Internet blackout in Ethiopia, and much more. Please keep your news, tips, ideas and other feedback coming to: todayinopengov@sunlightfoundation.com

states and cities


Durham, NC
  • Please help American cities improve their open data policies! "On Wednesday, the city and county of Durham, NC posted their open data policy for public comment online using the OpenGov Foundation’s online drafting platform, Madison. Like many of the local governments Sunlight has worked with in the What Works Cities initiative, Durham is using the revision of its open data policy as an opportunity to solicit feedback directly from the public, technical experts, as well as those with local knowledge. As with the District of Columbia and other cities, we’re glad to see Durham seeking direct public feedback online to update the text of an existing open data policy." (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • A new tool gives New Yorkers data on what's in their drinking water. "Not just Canandaigua drinking water, but all public drinking water statewide is broken down into what it's made of at "What's In My Water?" Think contaminants like nitrates, coliform, bromomethane, strontium, cobalt and trichloropropane — they're in the data you can pull up for your drinking water supply by putting in your ZIP code." (Government Technology)
  • This is a more positive future for a "smart city" that puts people at the center of data collection and use. "But what if citizens themselves could harness the smart city’s sensors and gather their own data, using it to reshape the urban environment in a way that better meets their needs? That’s the intriguing question behind Sensors in a Shoebox, a project to put compact kits of sensors in the hands of Detroit teenagers." (CityLab)
  • The Data Coalition's Texas Data Demo Day showed promising progress and outcomes on opening state government financial data. The event "highlighted the ongoing work of state and municipal leaders as they maximize transparency outside government and improve efficiency inside, by standardizing and publishing their data." (Data Coalition)
  • In Massachusetts, Cambridge is targeting community-specific challenges with this new data set. "The city created a new data set this year called the Civic Innovation Challenge Inventory (CICI), a project that marries the city’s trove of publicly accessible data with specific challenges that Cambridge faces. The short but growing list represents a more organized approach to open data and answers the age-old question city government so frequently hears from its citizens of: 'How can I help?'" (StateScoop)

washington watch


Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services — and noted health industry investor. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
  • Tom Price pushed Australians on the priorities of American pharmaceutical giants during negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, raising further questions about his investments. "Price’s lobbying abroad, which has not previously been reported, is another example of how his work in Congress could have benefitted his investment portfolio. He traded hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in health-related companies while taking action on legislation and regulations affecting the industry. ProPublica previously reported that Price’s stock trades are said to be under investigation by federal prosecutors." (ProPublica)
  • Yesterday, President Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The claims he made to justify the decision where false, misleading, or unbalanced, according to the Washington Post's fact-check of his speech. 
  • 5 Senators asked the FCC to investigate what overloaded the agency's ECFS system, limiting public access to public comments filed. Five Democratic senators "want acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to make an investigation of that May disruption a priority, and also called for an investigation into the source of the attack. The senators' letter emphasized that they were especially troubled by the disruption of the process of public commentary given that public participation is crucial to the integrity of the FCC’s regulatory process." (Federal Computer Week)
  • Like their colleagues, the Senators are unlikely to get answers. In a decision that's awful for American democracy, Politico reports that the White House ordered agencies to ignore Democrats' oversight requests. "The White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers' oversight requests, as Republicans fear the information could be weaponized against President Donald Trump. At meetings with top officials for various government departments this spring, Uttam Dhillon, a White House lawyer, told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats, according to Republican sources inside and outside the administration." The Trump administration has not given the public a reason for this toxic decision.
  • Why is it still so hard to access government information? Fast Company took a look: "In an era when files can be searched, copied, and transmitted in minutes at minimal cost, many agencies still respond to requests with excessive delays, claims of high processing costs, and files produced in difficult-to-handle formats like scans of printed versions of digital documents." Alex Howard weighed in with Sunlight's simple solution: "One of the things that Sunlight has been pushing for for over a decade now is the simple idea that public information should be available online to the public by default, except where there are demonstrated security and privacy risks and harms, or other exemptions that exist under a state’s public records law.” (Fast Company)
  • Newly released White House ethics waivers don't paint a very reassuring picture on revolving door. "The batch of ethics waivers released by the White House offered more evidence of what everyone already knew: The Trump administration, despite pledges to 'drain the swamp,' has embraced the revolving door between government and the private sector." (Roll Call)
  • More coverage of the ethics waivers can be found at the New York Times and Government Executive

around the world


 
  • Ethiopia cut all of its people off from the Internet earlier this week. The reason the government gave was to prevent leaking of exam questions ahead of national secondary school tests over the next two weeks. The response is much broader than previous efforts to prevent this sort of leak. "Ethiopia has blocked the Internet on three occasions since huge anti-government protests exploded in November 2015. Mobile and landline phone networks are also crippled in much of the country’s two biggest regions, Oromia and Amhara, where anti-government protesters have become common over the last two years." (Global Voices
  • Reacting to range of scandals, France moves to ban political nepotism, bring "ethics back". "French Justice Minister François Bayrou on Thursday presented plans he said were aimed at bringing back ethics into French politics, including a ban on MPs hiring family members as their assistants, local media reported." (POLITICO)
  • Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor resigns following Panama Papers revelation. "Moix’s resignation comes less than three months after he took the job. A local media report on Monday connected Moix and his brothers to a company set up by the firm Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal." (POLITICO)

save the dates


Committee on House Administration
  • 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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