In today's edition, we examine the importance of truth in American democracy, Boston shows how open licenses can boost open data, Code.gov shows how sharing can lead to savings, and more…
the weekend in trumpland
- On truth, justice and the American way. Alex Howard reflected on the March for Truth which took place in 135 cities around the country over the weekend. "The coalition behind the march is calling for continued investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. The actions that they call on Congress to take, however, are not partisan." Particularly important is the focus on finding the truth, a concept that is "sometimes simple to observe and difficult to define, but it is the goal to which the representatives of a democratic government should aspire to share and support in public life and policy." (The Sunlight Foundation)
- Washington braces for Comey testimony… "Comey is expected to be peppered with questions during his planned appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday about reports Trump pressured him to shut down an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which was part of a larger probe into Trump associates’ ties to Russian officials." (POLITICO)…as Trump unlikely to invoke executive privilege to block appearance. Last week, White House officials refused to rule out invoking executive privilege to block Comey's testimony, but reports over the weekend indicate that the move is unlikely. (The Hill)
- OGE to release two dozen agency ethics waivers…"The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is reportedly set to release copies of roughly two dozen ethics waivers for federal officials next week, showing which officials are focusing on issues that they worked on in their private sector jobs." (The Hill)…while investigating undated waivers released by White House. "Ten out of the fourteen waivers that were made available to the public late Wednesday are not signed and dated, and have led some to speculate that the White House violated ethics rules in the process. According to a report by The Washington Post, the OGE has said it will question those waivers." (The Hill)
- Trump administration stance on information requests from Congressional minority might not be new, but it is problematic. "POGO has long held that because all Members of Congress are responsible for overseeing the executive branch, agencies should respond fully and timely to any reasonable request from any Member of Congress relating to the Member's Congressional duties, to the maximal extent of the law and without regard to the requester's party or status within their chamber." (Project on Government Oversight)
- DoJ defends Trump financial disclosure by arguing that rules governing form are highly ambiguous. "The Justice Department is defending President Donald Trump's personal financial disclosure by arguing that the rules for such forms are so ambiguous that a lawsuit challenging the disclosure must be thrown out." (POLITICO)
- National Archives should declare CIA torture report a federal record to ensure its accessibility via FOIA. "In a troubling rejection of transparency and accountability, the Trump administration has reportedly begun returning federal agency copies of the Senate Torture Report to Congress. At the request of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the CIA, the CIA Inspector General, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have all sent their copies to Congress (OpenTheGovernment.org) "It is now imperative that the Archivist act where others will not, and call the torture report what it is: a federal record. This will allow it to be reviewed on its merits via FOIA, even if it is found that parts of it must be currently withheld under Exemption One to protect national security." (National Security Archive)
- Code.gov is growing and Federal Open Source Code Policy is here to stay. The policy has two key components: "All new custom source code developed by or for the federal government must be available to all other federal agencies for sharing and reuse; and at least 20% of new government custom-developed code must be released to the public as open source. It also established Code.gov as a platform for access to government-developed open source code and a way for other developers to participate." (OpenSource.com) Sunlight strongly supports this effort. Democratic governments should be open to the public by default. In the 21st century, that includes software code.
- Federal weather forecasters facing roadblocks as prediction models fall behind. "Overall, the President's budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sought $1.06 billion for the National Weather Service, down six percent from 2017. But the devil is in the details, and some of these details are indeed devilish." One particularly concerning detail is a request to slow the transition to a better data model. (Ars Technica)
states and cities
Columbia Journalism Review
- Encouraging open data with an open license in Boston. Ben Green of the City of Boston's Analytics Team stopped by the Sunlight Blog to share his city's experience. "Although we had originally considered placing terms that would require users to attribute any uses of the data to us, we realized that the value of data usage vastly outweighed that of attribution. As the City of San Francisco explained when they selected the Public Domain Dedication and License for their open data, 'If you note us as a source, that’s awesome, but gosh, don’t mess up your [user interface] doing it.'"
- Law firm sues Maine over delayed public records request. Open government advocates and press say that Governor LePage's administration has been slow to respond to the state's backlog of FOAA requests. (Press Herald)
- Ownership of body cam footage under question as programs proliferate. "For one, body camera footage is bought and paid for by taxpayers. It’s public record. Some states and municipalities restrict access to it under law enforcement exceptions to open-records laws, but it’s still public record. It isn’t difficult to see the downside of transferring an ownership stake in the footage to a private company." (Washington Post)
- Help map America's growing news deserts. "So we are asking for your help. We think that a complete, accurate map of America’s news deserts is important as we ponder the future of local news, and we want to build on what we’ve started here." (Columbia Journalism Review)
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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