Today in OpenGov: Questions of Timing


In today's edition, we reach across the aisle, New York City gets a new dashboard, the Trump and Kushner families split up (a business deal), a new European proposal for open data, and more. 

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • House members work across the aisle on rules reform ahead of leadership change. "A bipartisan group of lawmakers is drafting a package of rules reforms that they want to see in the next Congress – and some members are even considering withholding their support for the next Speaker unless the candidate agrees to the changes…The effort is aimed at changing how the House conducts legislative business in order to make the process more bipartisan and inclusive. One way to force that change is by encouraging members to withhold their votes for the next Speaker until they pledge to make the House rules more open and transparent." (The Hill)
  • The VA's internal watchdog and its acting secretary are fighting over whistleblower records. "The Department of Veterans Affairs’ top watchdog and its acting secretary are embroiled in a dispute over the agency’s treatment of whistleblower claims, while the department waits for a new leader. The VA's inspector general, Michael Missal, requested congressional action earlier this month to allow him to access VA documents in an inquiry about whistleblower complaints, while the department's acting secretary, Peter O'Rourke, has accused Mr. Missal of overreach and insubordination." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Watchdog seeks probe of Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) private plane use. "A conservative watchdog group on Thursday will request that the Senate Ethics Committee investigate Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) over her reporting of income from the private plane owned by her husband. McCaskill’s use of the aircraft is drawing heavy fire from Republicans as she battles her challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, in one of the midterm election’s most hotly contested races." (POLITICO)
  • Did Scott Pruitt really write only a single email to anyone outside the EPA in ten months? "An examination of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s government email accounts has uncovered only one message he wrote to anyone outside EPA during his first 10 months in office — a number that has watchdogs questioning whether he is communicating in private. EPA says Pruitt mainly holds discussions in person or over the phone, which would explain the meager electronic trail for his external communications. But Pruitt’s critics remain suspicious — especially in light of all the steps the agency has taken to conceal his activities, from refusing to release his meeting calendars to installing a $43,000 soundproof booth in his office." (POLITICO)

states and cities

A screenshot from the New York City Council's new data dashboard, via Civicist.
  • California lawmakers cave to lobbying pressure, weaken net neutrality bill. "A California net neutrality bill that could have been the strictest such law in the country was dramatically scaled back yesterday after state lawmakers caved to demands from AT&T and cable lobbyists. While the California Senate approved the bill with all of its core parts intact last month, a State Assembly committee's Democratic leadership yesterday removed key provisions." (Ars Technica)
  • How a major voting machine vendor wooed state and local officials. "The nation’s largest voting equipment vendor has for at least nine years coaxed state and local elections officials to serve on an 'advisory board' that gathers twice annually for company-sponsored conferences, including one last year at a ritzy Las Vegas resort hotel. The arrangement could compromise the integrity of the officials' decisions — or at the very least, the optics of those decisions — at a time when they are faced with efforts by Russia and perhaps other nations to disrupt the upcoming mid-term elections, ethics and elections experts said." (McClatchy DC)
  • Exploring the New York City Council's new public data dashboard. "In the past year, U.S. citizenship assistance was the second most popular category of constituent casework for New York City Council Members after tax preparation help. It is the top issue for Council districts in Northern Queens, Central and Southern Brooklyn, the Western Bronx and Southeast Queens. While Spanish is the top second language spoken across the city, Chinese is the top language in districts in Northern Queens, Southern Manhattan and Southwest Brooklyn. Yiddish is the top language in the Brooklyn district that includes Borough Park, while it is Russian in two neighboring South Brooklyn Districts. Those are some of the insights possible through a new overview of public data that the New York City Council is launching that uses maps to make district information more easily accessible to lawmakers, advocates and the broader public." (Civicist)


  • The Trump administration is making it more complicated for scientists to talk to the media. "A new directive from the Trump administration instructs federal scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey to get approval from its parent agency before agreeing to most interview requests from reporters, according to employees and emails from officials with the Department of the Interior and USGS. USGS employees who spoke with The Times on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to do so say the new protocol represents a dramatic change in decades of past media practices at the scientific agency and will interfere with scientists’ ability to quickly respond to reporters’ questions." (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Trump and Kushner families have cut ties on a controversial New Jersey hotel deal. "The Trumps and the Kushners are parting ways — not the White House power couple Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, but their family businesses on hotel collaborations in New Jersey, according to people briefed on the situation. Kushner Companies and the Trump Organization recently dropped plans for the Trumps to manage an oceanfront hotel that the Kushners are building at the Jersey Shore. The companies also terminated an arrangement that had the Trumps managing a hotel outside New York City in Mr. Kushner’s childhood hometown, Livingston, N.J." (New York Times)
  • Ryan Zinke met with parties involved in a real estate deal tied to his foundation at Department of Interior headquarters. "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met at department headquarters in August with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar and other developers involved in a Montana real estate deal that relied on help from a foundation Zinke established, according to a participant in the meeting and records cited by House Democrats late Thursday." (POLITICO)
  • New memo shakes up timeline on move to add citizenship question to Census, contradicting Trump administration's stated rationale. "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross contradicted the Trump administration’s justification for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, revealing for the first time Thursday that he began to consider adding the question even before the Department of Justice requested that he do so. The disclosure came in a supplemental memo filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the addition of the citizenship question. The memo is significant because the Trump administration has said that the request to add the citizenship question originated with the Department of Justice, which wanted better data to enforce the Voting Rights Act. DOJ asked the Department of Commerce to add the question in December 2017, but Ross revealed for the first time on Thursday that other senior administration officials had raised it earlier and he had been considering it." (HuffPost)

around the world

Image via Open Knowledge.
  • Can Europe's proposed Public Sector Information Directive serve as a baseline for open data? "Some weeks ago, the European Commission proposed an update of the PSI Directive**. The PSI Directive regulates the reuse of public sector information (including administrative government data), and has important consequences for the development of Europe’s open data policies. Like every legislative proposal, the PSI Directive proposal is open for public feedback until July 13. In this blog post Open Knowledge International presents what we think are necessary improvements to make the PSI Directive fit for Europe’s Digital Single Market.‚Äč" (Open Knowledge)
  • Romania's most powerful politician has been sentenced to jail on corruption charges. "Romania’s High Court sentenced Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democrats, to 3-1/2 years in jail Thursday in a case involving fake jobs for party workers, though he is expected to appeal. Dragnea, who is president of the lower house of parliament, is considered the most powerful politician in the country." (POLITICO)
  • Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, charged with misuse of public funds. "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife has been charged with misusing public funds, compounding the first family’s legal problems as the attorney general weighs whether to indict the premier himself on suspicion of corruption. Sara Netanyahu has been charged with using nearly $100,000 of state money to cover unauthorized spending on high-end meals between September 2010 and March 2013. She has denied wrongdoing, and the prime minister has said the family is the victim of a political witch hunt by leftists and journalists seeking to depose his government." (Bloomberg)


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