Today in OpenGov: Finding out What Works in three new cities


In today's edition, we welcome five new cities to the What Works Cities initiative, keep our eye on the potential tax reform-related lobbying boon, highlight open data boosting efforts in Singapore, wave goodbye to Tom Price, and much more. 

states and cities

Winston-Salem, North Carolina is one of the cities that we'll be working closely with over the coming months. 
  • What Works Cities welcomes new members. Alex Dodds shared the news that five new cities have joined the What Works Cities initiative, including three that will be working with closely with the Sunlight Foundation. Alex went on to give an overview of the work that we'll be doing with Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cary, North Carolina, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Time for New Mexico to get serious about open data. John R. Roby argues in favor of better open data programs in the Land Of Enchantment. New Mexico has a public records law, but "without a commitment to open data at all levels of government — one that’s backed by both political will and funding support — New Mexico is wasting money and leaving available talent on the table." Roby explores the broader context of open data, noting that some of the path has already been paved. "Open data does not just happen, but requires planning, policymaking and public input. The Sunlight Foundation has developed a scalable approach to building open data policies that three dozen cities have adopted." (Searchlight New Mexico
  • Can technology make police departments less racist and more effective? Mark Funkhouser weighs in on that question, writing "policing in America is a huge and expensive enterprise that clearly isn’t very effective, and I think a big part of the reason is the misdirection of resources resulting from racialized policing." (Governing)

washington watch

  • A tale of tax reform, two sentences, and a $1 billion lobbying windfall. Two vaguely worded sentences in the tax reform plan released by President Trump and Congressional Republicans last week are causing concern "among a wide range of businesses and industries about the prospect of losing valuable tax breaks — from preferential tax treatment for insurers to credits for renewable energy to a prized tax treatment used by the commercial real estate industry." According to this report by Kenneth P. Vogel, "those fears are being stoked by lobbyists, who are urging clients and prospective clients to get out in front of any changes that could eliminate or weaken sections of the tax code that benefit them." (New York Times)
  • Justice Department releases new guidelines for Chief FOIA Officer reports. "The FOIA requires agency Chief FOIA Officers to report to the Attorney General on their performance in implementing the law…You can view the 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines, as well as all other guidance issued by OIP, on the Guidancepage of our site.  As in past years, OIP will issue a Summary and Assessment based on agencies’ 2018 Chief FOIA Officer Reports." (Department of Justice via NFOIC
  • Are there enough federal Chief Information Officers to implement reforms set to pass Congress? "Nearly half of the cabinet-level agency CIOs are acting officials; the scene is similar among smaller agencies…With the MGT Act estimated to pass in December, there will be greater pressure on agencies to develop modernization plans as the fiscal year approaches." (FedScoop)
  • The Trump Administration makes a push to reauthorize sweeping surveillance law. "The Trump Administration is pushing hard for the reauthorization of a key 2008 surveillance law — section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA — three months before it sunsets in December." (The Intercept)

Closed captioning, which is also referred to as broadcast captioning, is a swiftly growing field of court reporting that involves providing written text for broadcast programming. Congress requires, as of 1996, all video programming distributors to provide closed captioning for their television programs. As such, court reporters from working in closed captioning are in high demand as to allow programming distributors to meet this standard.

around the world

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Dr. Janil Puthucheary with winners and supporting partners of Singapore's National Data Viz Video Challenge. Image: GovTech.
  • Singapore's Government Technology Agency encourages open data use through visualization contest. "Students from universities, polytechnics, junior colleges and institutes of technical education (ITE), were asked to use and analyse government datasets from Singapore government’s open data portal, & other publicly available data sources to create an impactful visualisation video." (OpenGov Asia)
  • Mobile blackouts exacerbate humanitarian crises wherever they happen. "As societies across the globe grow increasingly dependent on mobile networks for everything from entertainment to emergency services, a sudden communication blackout — whether accidental or intentional — can swiftly disrupt daily life and leave people cut off from critical services like medical care." (Global Voices)
  • Tanzania quits the Open Government Partnership, citing RTI law. "Substantiating its move to leave Open Government Partnership (OGP), the government said it had already subscribed to other initiatives with similar objectives as a substitute." In a letter to the OGP Steering Committee "the Minister of Foreign affairs and East Africa Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga explained that the government has recently enacted the Access to Information Act of 2016" and cited Tanzania's participation in the African Peer Review Mechanism as reasons to leave the OGP. (The Citizen)
  • Duterte denies corruption allegations, threatens anti-graft agency. "Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed allegations he’s hiding hundreds of millions of pesos in his bank accounts, calling them 'lies' and vowing to snub a probe into his wealth initiated by the country’s top anti-graft agency." (Bloomberg)


  • Price resigns as HHS Secretary amid plane probe. "HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday in the face of multiple federal inquiries and growing criticism of his use of private and government planes for travel, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 million since May." (POLITICO)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs moves to boost transparency around Secretary's travel. "Today, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking yet another step on transparency on its official actions, this time in the area of disclosing official travel by the Secretary." (Veterans Affairs) We think that more transparency in the face of press scrutiny is a good instinct. It's better to make open the default. 
  • Trump asks judge to throw out emoluments suit filed by Attorneys General of MD, DC. "President Donald Trump asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by two attorneys general accusing him of profiting from his office, in violation of the U.S. Constitution" The request argues that Maryland and the District of Columbia lack legal standing in the case. (Bloomberg)
  • NSA warned White House staff about using private email for public business. "The National Security Agency warned senior White House officials in classified briefings that improper use of personal cellphones and email could make them vulnerable to espionage by Russia, China, Iran and other adversaries, according to officials familiar with the briefings." (POLITICO)
  • Justice Department demands Facebook user info in inauguration protest investigation. "The Justice Department is demanding the private Facebook account information of political activists as part of its investigation into violent Inauguration Day protests. In three separate search warrants served to the social media giant in February, Trump administration lawyers sought troves of information from three Facebook users that include private messages and personal identifying information." (The Hill)

save the dates

  • October 12th: Examining Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections, Washington, DC. Hosted by the Campaign Legal Center, this even brings together campaign finance, cybersecurity, foreign policy, and other experts to discuss lessons learned from the 2016 election. Learn more, check out the agenda, and register to attend here.
  • 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.
  • November 7th and 8th: The Harvard Summit on Data-Smart Government, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The "first-ever Harvard Summit on Data-Smart Government [is] presented by the Civic Analytics Network (CAN), a peer group of leading Chief Data Officers from America’s largest cities working to advance the use of data analytics in municipal government. At the Summit, you will learn about the ways data is reshaping how cities across the country work and hear from expert speakers including CAN Director Stephen Goldsmith, author of The Responsive City and Director of Harvard’s Innovations in Government program. Conference participants will be able to take part in training and workshops to gather practical knowledge about how to transform city services and government through the use of data and attend sessions on topics including how cities can leverage data for public safety, mobility, inspections, and more." You can learn more and register here, note that registration closes on October 6th.
  • November 17th – 19th: Data 4 Black Lives, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Community members, organizers, academics, technologists, educators, artists, policy makers, and public servants will come together for the inaugural Data for Black Lives conference at the MIT Media Lab. Learn more, check out some of the conference panels, and register to attend right here


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