Today in OpenGov: Clearing the air


In today's edition, we weigh in on New York City's open data audit, lobbyists launch a last minute push to influence tax legislation, Czech open data projects are highlighted, and more. 

states and cities

  • New York City's open data audit is a promising model for accountability. Stephen Larrick explained, "New York City is at the forefront of experimenting with new mechanisms for open data policy enforcement. Last night, after a series of examinations of agencies’ data systems and pursuant to Local Law 8, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) presented its second annual audit report on agency compliance with the open data policy to the City Council’s Committee on Technology." (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • Senior aides to the governor of Missouri use a messaging app that erases messages after they are read. According to an Associated Press report, "several senior members of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' office have accounts with a secretive app that erases messages after they've been read, raising concerns among government-transparency advocates that the app could be used to undermine open-record laws." Sunlight's Alex Howard weighed in, arguing that "removing public records about public business from scrutiny entirely removes the ability for oversight bodies, journalists and the public to hold our officials accountable for their work on our behalf, should waste, fraud, abuse or outright criminality occur." (US News)
  • Colorado town piloting virtual attendance technology for city council meetings. "Whether Lafayette City Council members will be allowed to attend meetings and cast votes remotely may hinge on the common buffering and connection pitfalls that plague a typical Facetime call. A council member who is unable to attend a future meeting or vote in person will be able to do so virtually — via some form of online video-messenger application — over the coming months on a trial basis." (Government Technology)
  • How data can help address hunger and food disparity. Erica Pincus explores data drive efforts to fight hunger; "Today, to address the persistent challenge of access to healthy food, governments face the challenge of identifying the people and places in need of interventions. And yet again, governments are relying on data to ensure food security, specifically to determine to whom they should deliver resources to effectively reduce hunger." (Data-Smart City Solutions)

washington watch

Washington, DC. Image credit: National Parks Service.
  • House Ethics Committee clears Rep. Nunes (R-CA) in probe over release of classified information. "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was cleared by the Ethics Committee of disclosing classified information, opening the way for him to resume full control of the panel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election." (Bloomberg)
  • How to bring transparency to publicly funded science data. "Given how important data is in scientific research, and how much of it is publicly funded, one might think research data is easily available for examination – for other researchers to kick the tires, so to speak. But actually, only a small minority of papers are published with the data available." Josh Nicholson digs into this phenomenon and explores the growing trend towards open science data. (POLITICO)
  • Net neutrality rollback will reduce transparency around ISP fees and data caps. "Because advertised prices often don't reflect the full cost of service, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. The new requirements were part of the net neutrality rules—and are therefore going to be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week." (Ars Technica)
  • Lobbyists launch last minute push to save popular tax breaks, protect powerful industries. "Lobbyists have launched an all-out effort to save tax breaks and protect powerful industries as the Republicans’ tax overhaul lurches toward President Donald Trump’s desk. Builders and real estate interests are pushing to save the mortgage interest deduction. Businesses are fighting to strip out a last-minute provision inserted into the Senate bill that would preserve the corporate alternative minimum tax. And a coalition of trade groups and local government leaders is urging Republicans not to cut the state and local tax deduction." (POLITICO)


Image credit: Roderick Eime.
  • Transportation department kills airline fare transparency requirements. "Two efforts to make airline fare information easier for customers to understand were killed by President Donald Trump’s Transportation Department. The department announced Thursday on its website that it was withdrawing the proposals as part of Trump’s effort to reduce regulatory burden on U.S. businesses." (Bloomberg)
  • Trump to slash Treasury financial-data office. "The Trump administration has told employees of the U.S. Office of Financial Research to expect deep budget and staffing cuts, according to people familiar with the matter, the latest example of its efforts to undo policies put in place under former President Barack Obama." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Facing increased pressure, Mueller probe may have secured an insurance policy via Flynn deal. "The Dec. 1 plea deal struck with President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, marked a big step forward in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. It may also have provided some protection for Mueller against being fired by the president—and helped ensure that his probe will continue, even if one day he’s not leading it." (Bloomberg)

around the world

The winner of the fifth Czech open data challenge, State Watchdog, is a strong tool of control over public spending. Michal Blaha, the site's creator, is pictured.
  • The most recent Czech open data challenge highlighted transparency applications. "In the fifth edition of Czech open data challenge, interested parties from the ranks of the public, non-profit organizations and companies were invited to submit applications that use or generate open data. Applications developed between November 2016 and October 2017 could compete. This year, the competition was dominated by transparency apps. Many of the 24 contestants focused on improving the efficiency of public spending or parliamentary watchdog. Others chose to provide convenient access to information about pharmacies or publishing stats about lawyers." (Open Knowledge)
  • Cities across the world have a unique role to play when it comes to open data for social impact. Sunlight's Katya Abazajian reflected on the recent OGP America's Regional Meeting, especially an energizing "level of interest among OGP attendees in meaningful civic engagement around open data at the local level." (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • Polish NGOs fear restrictions as government shifts control of their funding. "Polish NGOs not sharing the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s ultra-conservative values are already on a financial “starvation diet,” according to one of them, and now fear an even tighter squeeze thanks to a new government agency taking direct control of money flows." (POLITICO)

one sentence or less

  • Interior Secretary booked government helicopters to travel to DC area events. (POLITICO)
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray defended his agency to the House Judiciary Committee, following sharp criticism from President Trump. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The former Member of Congress who was caught with $90,000 in his freezer cut a deal to keep him from returning to prison. (Roll Call)
  • The GSA announced the latest class of Presidential Innovation Fellows. (Government Executive)
  • FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who used to be a lawyer for Verizon, gave a speech at Verizon just days before the FCC votes to roll back net neutrality rules, a move that Verizon supports. (Huffington Post)


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