Today in OpenGov: On Eclipse Day, sunshine in government matters more than ever

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After some much-needed summer vacation, we're back with our daily roundup of open government news from Washington, across the United States, and across the world!

Today, we're highlighting the biggest stories that came out while we were offline. We'll be back tomorrow with a more granular look at the day's open government news. Please email us at todayinopengov@sunlightfoundation.com and share what we missed.

ECLIPSE DAY

On Eclipse Day, John Wonderlich shared a reflection on secrecy and sunshine. A total solar eclipse might be a rare event, but the open government movement’s work to make government more transparent and accountable goes on all year long. We hope you’ll recognize and support the the public servants, organizations, investigative journalists, librarians, researchers, and technologists who make government open to the people it serves. As you see the sun fall into shadow and then return today, remember how valuable public information is to the public — and then get involved in helping your city, state and federal government be more open to the people it services. [Medium]

SUMMER SECRECY


 
  • No vacation for Russia investigations. The special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt and influence the 2016 presidential election has been issuing subpoenas through a DC-based grand jury for several weeks. (New York Times) Last month, the FBI conducted a raid on the home of Paul Manafort, the  former chairman of the Donald Trump campaign. Manafort has turned documents to  investigators in Congress as well, as probes go forward. (POLITICO) The Trump campaign is reportedly cooperating with the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation, turning over thousands of pages of documents earlier this month. (Bloomberg)
  • Pruitt's EPA reforms are being conducted in the dark. Scott Pruitt, former Oklahoma attorney general and current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has long been a critic of the office he currently heads. "But as he works to roll back regulations, close offices and eliminate staff at the agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment and public health, Mr. Pruitt is taking extraordinary measures to conceal his actions, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former agency employees." report Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton at the New York Times.
  • Justice Department seeks anti-Trump website visitor logs. This summer, the United States Department of Justice demanded DreamHost provide IP data for visitors to an anti-Trump protest organizing website, including email, activit logs and photos. This action doesn't simply have the potential to chill the freedoms of speech, association and assembly guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It's using the considerable powers of the federal government to target political enemies of the president. So far, DreamHost has refused to comply with DoJ demands. (The Atlantic)
  • Billionaire Trump advisor Icahn quits amid conflict of interest questions. Last week, Carl Icahn gave up his role as a special regulatory advisory to President Trump. Icahn had some under scrutiny for advocating changes in U.S. biofuel policy that would benefit CVR Energy, an oil refiner that he owns. (Bloomberg

opening states


Texas' Congressional Map. Image by Anneke Paterson and Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune. 
  • Federal court strikes blow against gerrymandered Texas Congressional map. A three judge panel in San Antonio, Texas ruled that the 27th and 35th Congressional Districts were drawn on racial lines, violating the U.S. Constitution and Federal Voting Rights Act. The ruling is the latest in a six year battle over the state's maps and sets up a scramble to redraw the maps ahead of next year's mid-term elections. (Texas Tribune)
  • The return of "soft money" in party politics? "A new Center for Public Integrity analysis of campaign finance data indicates Democrats and Republicans alike are now aggressively trafficking in a new — and perfectly legal — kind of soft money, enabled by a 2014 Supreme Court decision, the latest in a series gutting major parts of [Senator] McCain’s 2002 law…" which aimed to end the practice of unlimited cash flowing to political parties. (Center for Public Integrity)
  • 18F and the FBI are teaming up on a tool to shed light on national crime statistics. Crime Data Explorer is part of the FBI's ongoing effort to make crime data more accessible. The resource is the result of a partnership with 18F and provides a tool that allows users "to view crime trends across the country, by state and by variety of crime; they also can tap into the crime data API and even download the raw data sets."  (FedScoop)

SUMMER AT SUNLIGHT

While our newsletter went on hiatus, our staff have been busy in the interim — and we have more Sunlighters on board! Keep an eye on the blog for more posts later this week.

[Human-centered Design Model. Image via Visocky O’Grady, 2008.]

  • Writing for Sunlight, Harris Fellow Faraz Ahmed made the case for human-centered open data design. "While more than 100 American cities have released data on topics like budgets, crime, transportation, and properties, open data websites aren’t always designed around the needs of residents. When open data is difficult for residents to access, it makes it harder to use. Taking a “human-centered” design approach to open data helps governments engage more closely with their communities and drive social change." Read the whole post on the Sunlight Blog.
  • Please welcome Alex Dodds, our new Open Cities storyteller! Last week, Alexandra Dodds joined the Sunlight family to help share how cities are putting their open data policies to use. Sunlight's Open Cities director Stephen Larrick sat down with Alex for an introductory interview to discuss her perspective and priorities.
  • Environmental Data and Governance Initiative leaders join Sunlight as fellows. Toly Rinberg and Andrew Bergma took leaves of absence from their Ph.D. program at Harvard University to help lead the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), helping to launch and lead the Website Monitoring working group. Now, they've joined Sunlight as Fellows! Their goals include writing about changes to government websites, creating a robust vocabulary and classification of changes to web content and access, and researching and piloting a sustainable system for monitoring important Web resources on federal government websites. Read more on the Sunlight BlogToly and Andrew kicked off their Fellowships by sharing what they've learned about the Trump Administration's changes to government websites. The changes, which span topics like climate change, renewable energy, clean water, and more, might not surprise you. 
  • Tracking New York's open data improvements. Miranda Neubauer followed the various ways that the New York City government is moving to expand open data in accordance with the latest plan to comply with the Big Apple's landmark 2012 open data law. Read all about New York's news on the Sunlight Blog.

 

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