Today in OpenGov: Take a Time Out


In today's edition, the shutdown lingers on, the Trump administration appeals a judges move to block its Census citizenship question, a judge blocks Wisconsin's lame duck attack on early voting, Mexican journalists face surveillance and worse, and more. 

shutdown stories

Screenshot taken from the Smithsonian National Zoo's "Panda Cam" before the government shutdown started. Screenshot taken from the Smithsonian National Zoo's "Panda Cam" before the government shutdown started. 
  • The federal government shutdown is starting to impact weather forecasts. "The National Weather Service is still putting out weather forecasts, but employees are doing it without pay. And, weather forecasting equipment is not being maintained." (NPR)
  • outage not related to the shutdown, but raises concerns over public input. "The website used by the public to comment on proposed federal regulations has gone dark, but the agency that runs it says it's not due to the government shutdown, despite what a message on the website said. The site,, this morning showed only a message that it is 'not operational due to a lapse in funding, and will remain unavailable for the duration of the government shutdown.' The EPA, which runs the site, however, said in a statement that the message was posted in error." (POLITICO) The folks at Public Citizen weighed in, arguing that "Regardless of when the site’s full functionality is restored, the administration should immediately extend all open comment periods for however long the government shutdown lasts to protect the public’s fundamental right to participate in the regulatory process…" We completely agree. While the government is shut down over a political dispute, public input on vital matters of policy should not be ignored. 
  • A Democratic dark money group with ties to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is set to run ads targeting 6 GOP senators over the shutdown. "A Democratic group plans to launch a television advertising campaign criticizing six Republican senators for the partial government shutdown, escalating the political battle as the standoff reached its 27th day. Majority Forward, a Democratic nonprofit group aligned with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), has produced 30-second ads taking Republican senators facing potentially competitive reelection campaigns to task over the lapse in government services." (Washington Post)
  • The latest casualty of the government shutdown? The Smithsonian National Zoo's Panda Cam. "The partial government shutdown has its long arms in many aspects of people's daily lives. Here is yet another: animal live cams. Small moments of joy have been stolen from avid animal-live-cam watchers who regularly check up on their favorites at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. According to the zoo's website, the live animal cams require federal resources and funding, so they've gone dark during the shutdown." (NPR)


A section of the U.S.-Mexico border.A section of the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Number of children separated from their parents at the U.S. Mexico border is "thousands" more than previously reported, according to watchdog. "A Health and Human Services Department watchdog concluded that “thousands” more immigrant children were separated from a parent or guardian at the U.S.-Mexico border than the government had previously reported, and that the total number of family separations is 'unknown.' The HHS Office of Inspector General published a report Thursday finding that the current tally—2,737 children—applies only to children in the department’s custody as of a June 2018 federal court order requiring the data’s release. But the statistic does not include thousands of children who were separated from their parents and detained beginning in the summer of 2017 and released before the ruling was issued." (Government Executive)
  • The Trump administration has appealed a court ruling blocking it from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. "The Trump administration is appealing a ruling Tuesday blocking it from putting a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. Government defendants in the case said in a one-page court filing Thursday that they’ll seek a hearing in front of an appeals court in Manhattan, though the ultimate resolution of the case may come in the U.S. Supreme Court." (Bloomberg)
  • President Trump racked up more than 1,400 conflicts of interest in his first two years, according to new watchdog report. "A government watchdog group estimates that President Trump had more than 1,400 conflicts of interests during his first two years in office. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report Thursday claiming that the president tried to promote his businesses as extensions of his presidency and administration. During Trump’s second year in office, CREW reported more than 900 interactions between the Trump administration and the Trump Organization." (The Hill)
  • Michael Cohen paid an IT firm to try and rig two online polls in favor of then-candidate Trump, paid first installment in a cash-stuffed Walmart shopping bag, skipped out on the rest of the bill. The Wall Street Journal has the full story, which Michael Cohen confirmed on Twitter, adding "what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS."
  • Latest Democratic and activist strategy asks the question, what happens if you ignore Trump? "Trump, who recently pined about being lonely in the White House, is lately finding himself in a position he’s rarely been in over the past few years: Ignored…So what happens when, instead, he is met with something of a shrug? The new silent treatment limits Trump’s ability to dictate national coverage and frame the day’s debate. And it’s providing an early template for how Democratic presidential candidates may attempt to deal with him in 2020, essentially forcing him out of a conversation they want to have with voters." (Washington Post)

states and cities

The Wisconsin State Capitol. Via the Wisconsin Department of Administration.The Wisconsin State Capitol. Via the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
  • A federal judge struck down efforts by Wisconsin's lame-duck legislature to limit early voting. "A federal judge has struck down controversial restrictions on early voting in Wisconsin that were passed during the state Legislature's lame-duck session last month. The restrictions limited early voting in Wisconsin to the two weeks before an election. In recent years, cities including the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison have offered several weeks of early voting." (NPR)
  • Newly published taxonomy aims to improve state and local financial data. "XBRL US announced today that it has published a Demonstration Release Taxonomy representing selected portions of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) used by state and local governments to report financial data. The taxonomy was developed by the XBRL US State and Local Government Disclosure Modernization Working Group. Since the group was formed in August 2018, members have worked to develop data standards representing the CAFR’s Statement of Net Position along with selected items from the Statement of Activities, Governmental Fund Balance Sheet, and Governmental Fund Statement of Revenues, Expenditures and Changes in Fund Balances. The standards are part of an exploratory program to determine how data standards can benefit all members of the municipal reporting supply chain, from state and local government accountants, to data intermediaries, to investors and agencies using the data." (BusinessWire)
  • Former journalists serving in the Virginia House of Delegates are looking to boost press freedom. "The Virginia General Assembly now has two former journalists as members, and they are hoping to move forward with bills to increase press freedom. High school newspapers shouldn’t be bullied or told what to do by principals and administrators. That’s the idea behind a bill introduced by Delegate Chris Hurst, a Democrat from Blacksburg who is a former television news anchor…Delegate Danica Roem is a Democrat from Prince William County and a former newspaper reporter. She’s introducing a bill to protect anonymous sources, which she says protects the mission of journalism." (Virginia Public Radio via NFOIC)

around the world

Protest of the murder of Javier Valdez in Mexico City (2017). Photo by ProtoplasmaKid.Protest of the murder of Javier Valdez in Mexico City (2017). Photo by ProtoplasmaKid, via Global Voices.
  • New research sheds light on the ongoing threats facing Mexican journalists. "According to a research report by the Digital Rights Defense Network (R3D) and a partnership of international NGOs, both Ismael Bojórquez (director of Ríodoce) and its director of information, Andrés Villarreal, suffered hacking attempts on their cell phones via text message. Combined with other cases that we have reported previously, this amounts to a total of 28 cases of attempted infection with Pegasus, against various journalists, activists, and human rights defenders in the country." (Global Voices)
  • European Parliament backs plan that would tie EU funding to rule of law in member states. "The European Parliament Thursday broadly backed the European Commission’s proposal to cut funds to EU countries that do not uphold the rule of law, setting the stage for a battle among member governments and underscoring geographic divisions within the bloc. The Parliament voted 397 in favor and 158 against a report on the proposal, with 69 MEPs abstaining. The Commission's plan has been widely seen as a way to exert pressure on countries such as Hungary and Poland, which have been accused by EU institutions of failing to adhere to the bloc's core values." (POLITICO)
  • An opposition lawmaker in the newest NATO state spent 2 weeks in jail after accusing the ruling party of corruption. "A prominent opposition lawmaker in NATO’s newest member has learned that a graft accusation may mean a jail sentence. Nebojsa Medojevic spent almost two weeks behind bars last month when he refused to give prosecutors details after he accused Montenegro’s long-ruling elite of corruption. He was freed Dec. 13, which he credits to international outrage over his detention and 'not the rule of law, which is really weak here.'" (Bloomberg)


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