Today in OpenGov: This is actually about ethics in government


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Read on for a weekend’s worth of open government news, including the latest on Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting, a wave of new additions to the What Works Cities initiative, spending transparency success, and much more.

states and cities

  • Five new cities join the What Works Cities initiative. The cities are Arlington, Texas, Fort Collins, Colorado, Charleston, South Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

    At a time when trust in institutions is low and public confidence in our national government is shaken, improving “the effectiveness of local governments by enhancing the use of data and evidence” — the goal and mission of the WhatWorks Cities (WWC) initiative — has never been more important.

    We are honored to be collaborating with our partners and communities to identify problems, create shared public facts, and work together on solutions to societal challenges. We’re also proud to have worked with the majority of these cities to draft and pass open data policies, with more to come, and improve public access to public information. You can read more about the announcement from What Works Cities and our partner, Results for America.

  • Policy body camera policies must err on the side of transparency. The New York Times editorial board weighed in on the important issue of policy body camera transparency, arguing that the videos “must be properly regulated and not left solely in the control of secrecy-minded police departments, as is now often the case. The issue can be complex, but there are workable ways to deal with questions about when cameras should be turned on and off, for example, and how to protect the rights and privacy of individuals seen or heard on the videos.” (New York Times)
  • California is preparing to debate a significant internet privacy bill. State legislatures around the country have floated bills that would restore online privacy rules rolled back by the FCC earlier this year. Now, as Colin Lecher reports, “California is facing a major trial in coming days, as state Senate committees debate Assembly Bill 375 — a measure that could be a bellwether for similar debates in other states.” (The Verge)


  • A Russian-American lobbyist also attended Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting. Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian army veteran turned American citizen and successful lobbyist, confirmed last week that he was present at Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. As Eileen Sullivan, Kenneth Vogel, and Adam Goldman, and Jo Becker report, the admission “adds another development to the evolving narrative about the gathering, which Donald Trump Jr. arranged after learning that a Russian lawyer claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The news of Mr. Akhmetshin’s attendance shows how the story of the meeting keeps changing and has increased pressure on the White House to offer a more comprehensive account of what happened.” (New York Times)
  • A startup connected to the Kushner family was invited to the White House tech summit. The CEO of OpenGov Inc., which is owned in part by a venture-capital fund owned by Jared Kushner’s brother, was in attendance at last months meeting of technology industry leaders at the White House. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The President’s “voter fraud” commission published private information from citizen complaints. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity hold its first meeting on Wednesday. Last week the committee published hundreds of pages of email sent by the public regarding the group’s work, including many sharply critical comments. In some cases,however, the White House disclosed personal phone numbers and email addresses of the public. (Ars Technica)
  • As Chris Ingraham reported, the White House does not appear to posted public guidelines or warnings when it asked for public feedback: “The Federal Register notice soliciting comments was published on July 5. The White House page was published on July 13. Approximately half of the emails published by the White House were dated prior to July 5.” (Washington Post)
  • When asked about whether the lack of redaction raised privacy and security concerns, the Vice President’s office — which is chairing the commission — dismissed concern about the information release.“These are public comments, similar to individuals appearing before commission to make comments and providing name before making comments,” said Marc Lotter, Press Secretary to Mike Pence, told Ingraham an email. “The Commission’s Federal Register notice asking for public comments and its website make clear that information ‘including names and contact information’ sent to this email address may be released.

    While this disclosure is not at all uncommon — FCC public comments are disclosed — we are not convinced about the public interest value of the disclosure unredacted personal information. We don’t want to see the administration create a disincentive for the public to meaningfully participate. If you see a strong case for disclosure, please email us!

washington watch

  • DATA Act Summit shows success of federal spending transparency legislation. Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition, explained why his organization won’t hold another DATA Act Summit. “…at this fourth annual DATA Act Summit, we no longer had to point to the future and predict the ways open spending data would benefit government and society, ” he wrote. “The future had come and the benefits were all around us – a world of new ways to visualize, analyze, and automate information about how taxpayers’ money is used.” (Data Coalition)

    We’re proud to have collaborated with the Data Coalition and many other passionate individuals on federal spending transparency over the years from identifying the issues to advocating for legislative reforms to former Sunlighters scrubbing into public service to help implement the DATA Act.

  • DHS failed to report $3.5 million in conference spending. “The Homeland Security Department failed to report nearly two dozen conferences in 2014 and 2015 with a cumulative price tag of more than $3.5 million, according to a new report, skirting federal requirements.” (Government Executive)
  • It’s past time for the Senate to modernize its campaign finance disclosure. Gabriela Schneider, chief communications officer at Issue One –and a former Sunlighter — laid out the archaic procedure the Senate currently uses for campaign finance disclosure. “Imagine that when you deployed code, you printed it out line by line, scanned the printouts, converted the scans into PDFs and then paid a data-entry contractor to manually type all the code from the PDF back into a database.” (Recode)

    Learn more about the issue here and call your senators to ask for more transparency.

save the dates

  • July 10th through 24th: e-Forum Discussion on the Agriculture Open Data Package, virtual. “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) are inviting interested individuals to participate in this forum discussion on ‘Agriculture Open Data Package to be held on the e-Agriculture Platform. The initial target audience for this forum are policy-makers, researchers, open data experts, and/or agricultural experts – however, any one interested is invited to attend.” Learn more about the forum and how to participate here.
  • July 19th, 5:30 PM EST. Book Discussion: When Your Job Wants You To Lie in Washington, DC. “Join us for a discussion that will help us deal with the kinds of situations we all encounter. Presented by the American Society for Public Administration, National Capital Area Chapter (ASPA NCAC). Refreshments start 5:30, and the discussion starts 6:00. Space is limited, so you must RSVP in advance.” Learn more and RSVP here.
  • July 20th, 5:00 PM EST. Webinar: The Power of Data Visualization in Cities. The Civic Analytics Network (CAN) will host a webinar, “The Power of Data Visualization in Cities,” Thursday July 20th, from 5pm to 6pm ET. The public webinar will be moderated by Stephen Goldsmith, Director of CAN and the Innovations Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the presentation will highlight some of the best data visualization products created by city governments across the country. Learn more here.
  • July 27th, 10 am: Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting in Washington, DC. “OGIS and the Department of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice are happy to announce that the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council will be held on Thursday, July 27th from 10 am to noon. You can register to join the audience in the William G. McGowan Theater beginning on July 26. You can also plan on watching the livestream via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel.”
  • August 1st: DKAN Summit in Washington, DC. Part of Drupal GovCon 2017, the DKAN Open Data Summit will feature open data leaders discussing how DKAN can be used to facilitate government open data efforts. Learn more and register 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.
  • September 13th: Civic and Gov Tech Showcase in San Jose, California. “Innovate Your State, in partnership with Microsoft and the City of San Jose, is bringing the 3nd Annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase to the Capitol of Silicon Valley. The Civic & Gov Tech Showcase is an opportunity to connect with civic minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and government leaders to showcase the great work that is being done to improve government and governance. The goal of the event is to encourage collaboration and the support of new technologies to improve government and public participation.” Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 14th – 16th: Digital Humanities and Data Journalism Symposium, in Miami, Florida. “Digital humanists and data journalists face common challenges, opportunities, and goals, such as how to communicate effectively with the public. They use similar software tools, programming languages, and techniques, and they can learn from each other. Join us for lectures and tutorials about shared data types, visualization methods, and data communication — including text visualization, network diagrams, maps, databases and data wrangling. In addition to the scheduled content, there will be opportunities for casual conversation and networking.” Learn more and register here.
  • September 28th: Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information, Paris, France. “The ‘IPDCtalks’ will be held to highlight and elaborate on the importance of Access to Information for all sustainable development efforts around the world. It will consist of a series of attractive and dynamic talks from global public leaders, top journalists, young intellectuals and community leaders. While some of the speakers will elaborate on the key role of Access to Information for the achievement of a particular Sustainable Development Goal, others will reflect on the essential role of Access to Information for our society and future.” You can learn more and request an invitation on the event website. If you’re interested, but can’t attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.

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