Today in OpenGov: States face open government challenges


In today's edition, we check in on challenges to Freedom of Information at the state level, President Trump keeps up his assault on the media, we weigh in on how agencies can use travel transparency to rebuild public trust, the DHS wants to use open data to fight biothreats, and more. 

states and cities

  • 2017 FOI Summit highlights key open government challenges. The National Freedom of Information Coalition hosted its annual FOI Summit over the weekend. The event brought together FOI experts, journalists, first amendment watchdogs and more to discuss trending, state and local level, open government issues. You can check out a recap of the event at the NFOIC's website. We’ll share more on the challenges to FOI soon.
  • Despite hurdles, this California county official is committed to participatory budgeting. "At the end of the month, an elected official in Merced County, California, will lead her district in the first implementation of participatory budgeting at the county level—but unless her fellow supervisors can be persuaded to see the value of the process, it could very well be this county’s last, too." Jessica McKenzie has the full story at Civicist
  • Massachusetts considers open meetings law amendment that would make it easier to deliberate online. The proposed bill would not end the need for public, in person meetings but it would allow for public, online discussions between members of boards and commissions. Despite some shortcomings, the Cape Cod Times argues that "legislative leaders should bring this bill up for a vote and let cities and towns figure out how best to make it work. In the 21st century, citizens shouldn’t have to travel to a meeting at town hall to get their questions answered and their voices heard." (Cape Cod Times)
  • Seattle Mayoral candidates' family ties may cause conflicts. "It turns out that both Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan [who are running to be Mayor of Seattle] have family connections that could force them to step back from certain decisions around expansion of the Washington State Convention Center and from Sound Transit light rail contracts." ( Our take? Public officials should foster public confidence by striving for openness about any potential ethics concerns. 
  • San Diego to expand local issue reporting app. "Among the new problems the Get it Done! app will handle are illegal car washing, broken trash cans, missed pick-ups by city trash trucks and sanitation hazards such as linked to the spread of the local hepatitis A outbreak." The app will also aim to improve feedback on the status of reported issues. (Government Technology

Trump vs. The media, the redux

  • Yesterday, President Trump continued his war on the Media. "President Trump launched another attack on the media on Tuesday, tweeting to his 40.7 million followers that 'fiction writers' are putting out 'fake news,' naming NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN specifically." (The Hill
  • Meanwhile, Jack Shaffer took the opportunity to weigh in on Trump's selective outrage over fake news. Writing for POLITICO Magazine, Shaffer explained that if " an unflattering news story touches on Trump, his family or something Trump controls, it’s fake. Any other story—factually challenged or not—has the potential in Trump world to be promoted if it advanced his interests, making him the most utilitarian consumer of news."
  • And FCC Chairman Ajit Pai finally weighed in against Trump's threats to revoke broadcast licenses. "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai initially resisted calls to tell President Trump that the FCC won't revoke broadcast licenses from stations whose news coverage Trump dislikes. But today, six days after Trump first said that NBC and other networks should have their licenses challenged, Pai said the FCC won't pull licenses based on the content of news reports." (Ars Technica)
  • As we’ve highlighted recently, Trump's on transparency and democracy includes almost daily attempts to delegitimize American journalism.

elsewhere in trumpland

Air Force One. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead.
  • Transparency can help the public trust federal stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Alex Howard weighed in on the administration's recent travel-related ethics woes, arguing that federal agencies looking to rebuild shaken public trust should build on the example of VA Secretary David Shulkin, who is publishing his travel information online, "and start publishing their travel schedules and costs online as open data, not PDFs, and begin publishing agency visitor logs. The American public should be able to see how secretaries are conducting public business, when, where and with whom." (Sunlight Foundation
  • Going to court for information on Trump immigration actions. Ted Hesson and Josh Gerstein report that a "federal judge in California on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to turn over emails, letters, memos and other materials related to its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program." (POLITICO) Meanwhile, 9 states and the District of Columbia are suing the Trump administration "refusing to turn over internal records about its crackdown on undocumented immigrants" in response to a June FOIA request according to this report by Erik Larson (Bloomberg)
  • The National Archives has been reminding the Trump administration of their document preservation duties. "National Archives officials have periodically warned White House lawyers that the Trump administration needs to follow document preservation laws, according to people familiar with the conversations and emails reviewed by POLITICO." Josh Dawsey and Bryan Bender report that National Archives officials were worried that some documents were not being properly preserved early in the administration. Officials reportedly shared those concerns with the White House counsel's office. (POLITICO)
  • First case challenging Trump on emoluments hits court today. Peter Overby reports that on "Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments." (NPR)

washington watch

  • Nominee to lead CIA watchdog denies whistleblower retaliation charges. "Christopher Sharpley, the acting CIA watchdog whom President Trump has nominated to be permanent inspector general, on Tuesday expressed skepticism about revelations by a whistleblower advocacy group that there are three outstanding cases alleging retaliation by his office." (Government Executive) The charges were first reported on Monday by the Project on Government Oversight
  • DHS launches challenge: leverage open data to detect biothreats. "That’s why DHS is launching a new challenge competition encouraging developers to come up with new ways to detect biothreats—potentially chemicals like anthrax, used for bioterrorism, as well as naturally occurring, often contagious diseases like smallpox." (NextGov)
  • A man on a mission to bring cameras to the Supreme Court. "The Supreme Court is a power center in the government that has desegregated schools, codified gun rights and legalized same-sex marriage. But few ever see it at work. Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, is trying to change that." Read Lydia Wheeler's full profile of Roth at The Hill


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