Today in OpenGov: Is there a leak crackdown ahead?


A quick reminder before we dig into today's open government news. If you are still relying on Sunlight's Congress API please begin to transition to ProPublica's API. The Sunlight Congress API will shut down as of August 31. 

Read on for stories on on data-driven efforts to reduce traffic fatalities, the Congressional app challenge, the White House communications office's war against leaks, and much more. 

states and cities

  • Mapping Boston's Vision Zero efforts to eliminate traffic fatalities. "The Boston Vision Zero story map unites a visual collection of maps, apps, charts, and infographics about the initiative that were individually launched after the city joined the initiative in 2015. The story map platform provides residents with up-to-date accident data and the ability to individually report safety concerns pinpointed by street or neighborhood on a crowdsourced map – all in one place." (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • Collecting jail data in Cook County, Illinois. David Eads shares details on a project he is working on at ProPublica Illinois. The Cook County Jail Scraper "tracks inmates’ court dates over time and when and where they are moved within the jail complex, among other facts." (Government Technology)
  • ACLU of Maine pushing back on governor's Facebook deletions. "The ACLU of Maine says Governor LePage is violating free speech protections by deleting comments or blocking people from commenting all together on his official verified Facebook page." In a letter to the governor, the ACLU argued that social media is protected under the first amendment and urged him to reinstate blocked individuals. (WCSH PortlandWe agree with the ACLU: it's a public official preventing public speech in a government-controlled public forum, albeit one hosted by a private company.
  • Help us understand how city officials use federal data. If you're a city official or worker, please  take this survey. Help us understand build a comprehensive and unprecedented view of federal data use across city governments.

washington watch

Image: National Parks Service
  • Democratic House staffer arrested on charges of bank fraud, prevented from leaving country. Imran Awan, a longtime IT staffer with ties to numerous House Democrats, was arrested before boarding a flight to Pakistan on Monday and charged with bank fraud. Awan, who until yesterday remained on the staff of Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, "has been at the center of a criminal investigation on Capitol Hill for months related to procurement theft. Several of his family members, also IT staffers at the time, were implicated in the ongoing investigation," according to this report by Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan. (POLITICO)
  • Third annual Congressional App Challenge launches today. In this challenge, Members of Congress feature technology projects built by their young constituents. 162 Members of Congress are sponsoring participants in this year's challenge, which runs through November 1st. (Roll Call)
  • What's the deal with blockchain for government? Luke Fretwell talked to the newly launched Government Blockchain Association about the technology's potential to help government. According to Dan Callahan, the association's Vice President, fraud prevention is one area where blockchain may have a big impact on government. (GovFresh)
  • How the State Department, USAID, NOAA, and other agencies are using the cloud to boost transparency. Heather Hayes dives into the ways that various agencies are using the cloud to boost their open data efforts, noting that "Transparency and access to information are key tenets of democratic governments. Today, agencies accomplish those goals via the cloud." (FedTech Magazine)   


Anthony Scaramucci. Image: World Economic Forum
  • Scaramucci's plan to scare away leakers. Early Tuesday new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci had strong words for leakers on his team, saying: “I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it…You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to be fired…” Although indicating that he has no specific plans to fire anyone yet, at least one member of the team — assistant press secretary Michael Short — has already announced his resignation. (POLITICO)
  • Meanwhile, the Attorney General's plan to find leaks merits close watching. Unnamed U.S. officials told Devlin Barrett that Jeff Sessions "is due to announce in coming days a number of criminal leak investigations based on news accounts of sensitive intelligence information. (Washington Post)
  • President Trump's infrastructure council sued over privacy, conflicts of interest. The nonprofit Food & Water Watch sued the Trump White House along with the Departments of Transportation and Commerce, arguing that the President's Advisory Council on Infrastructure violates secrecy and balance provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. (The Hill)
  • Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner slated to help Vice President Pence pick up PAC money. The appearance is intended to “dispel the rumors” that Pence's early fundraising focus is part of an effort to distance himself from the president, according to White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. (POLITICO)

save the dates

  • 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."
  • July 27th, 2:30 to 3:30 PM: Whistleblower Legislative Campaigns panel discussion in Washington, DC. As part of the annual Whistleblower Summit, experts from the Government Accountability Project, the Project on Government Oversight, and key House and Senate Committees will discuss whistleblower legislative campaigns. Learn more here.
  • July 27th, 6:00 to 9:00 PM: New FOIA tactics and FOIA Karaoke with Michael Ravinsky, in Washington, DC. Join MuckRock and the DC chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists "for a fun, informative talk given by FOIA expert Michael Ravnitzky, followed by a few rounds of FOIA Karaoke…Ravnitzky will be sharing a bunch of new FOIA tactics and research tools – including new ways of thinking about FOIA and strategies for learning about the current administration – that have never before been shared publicly." Learn more and RSVP!
  • July 27th, 6:00 to 10:00 PM: Advanced screening of "Frank Serpico" in Washington, DC. "The Make It Safe Coalition’s (MISC) annual Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights is hosting a special advanced screening of the whistleblower film 'Frank Serpico' at Busboys and Poets Brookland location on July 27th from 6-10 PM. The 2017 documentary is set to debut in November and captures the heroic story of Francesco 'Frank' Serpico, a New York City Police Department Officer who exposed corruption in the department." Learn more here
  • July 28th, 2:00 – 3:00 PM: The Office of Special Counsel and Merit Systems Protection Board: Past, Present, and Future Analysis in Washington, DC. As part of the annual Whistleblower Summit. Learn more here
  • 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: Civic Tech Fest and 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. The agenda is up now and you have until July 21st to sign up for early bird tickets!
  • 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.
  • October 13th – 14th: 2017 FOI Summit, Nashville, Tennessee. "Music City USA becomes home for NFOIC, state FOI coalitions and open government advocates for the 2017 FOI Summit on Friday and Saturday, October 13-14, 2017.The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and our host, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government will convene the annual summit at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University." You can learn more and register here


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