After one last summer break, 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 some of the biggest stories — and our own work — over the past week. We'll be back tomorrow with a more granular look at the day's open government news. Please email us at email@example.com and share what we missed.
Open data has become a crucial part of emergency response to natural disasters and the devastating hurricane that made landfall in Texas last week is no different. In fact, as Katya Abazajian and Alex Dodds detailed on the Sunlight blog, Hurricane Harvey is demonstrating how robust open data systems can help any city cope with and recover from disaster. Open data played a crucial role in the immediate disaster response and will continue to do so as authorities and communities rebuild.
"What can other cities learn from what’s happening in Houston? Open data should be part of any city’s disaster preparedness plan. Residents need as much information as possible during disasters, and open data platforms can deliver it even if city hall is closed. If city websites are overwhelmed, open data can be mirrored for use and reuse, removing roadblocks and choke points to members of the public seeking crucial information." Read the full story on the Sunlight Foundation blog.
- Sunlight picks up support to continue tracking Trump's conflicts. Last week, we were proud to announce that we received a $125,000 grant from the Lodestar Foundation to sustain and extend our list of Trump’s conflicts of interest, collaborate with other organizations investigating them, and assign and publish journalism based upon the research. Read the full story on the Sunlight blog.
- How can you deal with conflicts that the President won't acknowledge? Citing Sunlight's July 5th list of "ethical quandaries" in the White House, FiveThirtyEight asked "How do you deal with conflicts of interest when the person at their center doesn’t believe they exist?" They looked to history for an answer.
- GSA Inspector General will review lease agreement between GSA and Trump hotel. "Controversy over the lease arrangement between the General Services Administration and the Trump International Hotel in Washington continues, with [the] GSA’s inspector general office confirming…that it has opened an examination of the agency’s handling of the lease." (Government Executive)
- Trump political appointees drawn heavily from industries they now regulate. ProPublica's journalism has been essential in 2017. In their latest report, they reveal more of the people who have quietly moved into agencies across the federal government without disclosure — including many lobbyists. (ProPublica)
- OSHA removes worker fatality data from its homepage. "The federal department charged with protecting workers erased data on workplace deaths from the home page of its website… — and changed its policy to disclose fewer fatal accidents in the future." (POLITICO)
The Labor Department claimed that this will make the data, which the public can still can access here, more accurate. We are unconvinced that this is about quality or accuracy. The Trump administration is reducing the public prominence of data about deaths on the job. More subtly, it may change disclosures in a way that could look like a large drop in annual fatalities has occurred over time, if people are not aware of the nuance.
states and cities
- Who comments on open data policies and what do they care about? Sunlight Fellow Faraz Ahmed and Open Cities technologist Greg Jordan-Detamore analyzed 164 public comments made by 65 users on the online drafts posted by 9 American cities shared on the OpenGov Foundation’s Madison platform to understand the most popular topics. Sunlight Fellow Faraz Ahmed found at many commenters work for private tech companies and the government and primarily engage on technical topics.
- Money in politics is a hot topic at statehouses across the country in 2017. "State lawmakers this year are engaging in full-throated debate on campaign finance proposals — with some surprising outcomes." (Center for Public Integrity)
- Fighting drug overdoses with local data. In the second installment of a series on how data is being used to better understand and fight drug overdoses, Jonathan Jay dove "into police and EMS dispatch data revealing when and where overdoses occur. [Showing] how cities can use these data to create an effective early warning system for overdose spikes, identify chronic hotspots to target interventions, and assess performance across units. " (Data-Smart City Solutions)
- Charlottesville, Virginia launched an open data portal. opendata.charlottesville.org is a new part of how Charlottesville's civil servants and elected officials are informing communities about their work, creating shared facts about problems, approaches and outcomes. This August, the world witnessed Charlottesville become a crucible of protest and activism, catalyzing a national conversation about how local governments should manage rallies, counter protests, protecting civil liberties, public safety, and civic participation. We hope that community engagement regarding public data informs those dialogues, improving both access to information for all and communication across divides.
- Russian efforts to hack electoral systems draw little scrutiny, despite growing evidence. "After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists." (New York Times)
- Thanks to a decade of advocacy, reform and hard work, bulk downloads of Congressional data are here. Learn more about how to download information on every bill introduced in each session of Congress at ProPublica. Please take note: our Congress API will be retiring at the end of September.
- New bill aimed at boosting "transparency" at FCC could limit data, understanding. The bill "would officially require the agency to keep a database of consumer complaints — something the FCC is already doing and made publicly available last May — it specifically notes that the FCC would not be required to include 'duplicative complaints.'" (Morning Consult) We think that the FCC should be publishing every single consumer complaint and its subject as open data — and that the names of the companies in those complaints should not be redacted.
- 18F shares research and recommendations for new FOIA website with the Justice Department. "18F, the digital government unit housed within the U.S. General Services Administration, has published comprehensive research and recommendations (PDF) regarding a new national Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) website. When the prototype website clears the government’s security protocols, the public will be able to see the minimum viable product that 18F has built and deployed at beta.foia.gov. You can check out the FOIA project on Github in the meantime, thanks to 18F’s ethos of working in the open." (Sunlight Foundation)
save the dates
- 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 26th: Data Transparency 2017, in Washington, DC. Hosted by the Data Foundation, "Data Transparency 2017 is Washington's largest open data event, bringing together government leaders, transparency advocates, and the technology industry to explore how technology can transform government, compliance, and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets 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.
- Sctober 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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