Today in OpenGov: Housing hacks.


In today's edition, open data and civic hacking help housing advocates, a bipartisan group of Senators push back against FOIA changes at the EPA, a new report details the extent of climate change censorship under the Trump administration, and more. 

states and cities

Screenshot of ANHD’s Displacement Alert Project Map. Via Sunlight Foundation.
  • Open data and civic hacking are creating wins for housing advocates. "Many cities have struggled to keep housing supply in pace with increased demand, and tenants’ rights have become a focal point for local advocates and, increasingly, policy-makers. Despite public efforts to protect tenants, city governments don’t hold landlords accountable to maintaining their properties, and let developers lobby against tenant protection laws in order to buy and flip properties with short turnaround. Housing advocates have an essential role to play in protecting residents from the consequences of real estate speculation. But they’re often at a significant disadvantage; the real estate lobby has access to a wealth of data and technological expertise. Civic hackers and open data could play an essential role in leveling the playing field." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • New Washington, DC based civic tech incubator launches its first cohort. "D.C.-based CivStart, an accelerator program for civic tech startups that officially launched last week, announced that it has selected its first cohort of companies. The 10 early to late-stage companies will go through a 24-month training program, where they will focus on product development with the help of mentors from the public and private sectors." ( DC)
  • Protesters continue to push for resignation of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló. "Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets Monday in one of the largest protests in the island’s history to demand that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resign. The protests in San Juan stretched late into the night. Riot police fired tear gas into the crowd around 11p.m. ET, after giving the remaining demonstrators a 10 minute warning to completely clear the area." (BuzzFeed)
  • A network of dark money donors, Trump allies is pushing noncitizen voting laws in Florida and other states. "A network of out-of-state political consultants, secret donors and activists with close ties to President Trump is behind an effort to change the Florida constitution to explicitly state that only citizens may vote in elections, a measure that would amplify the issue of immigration in the 2020 battleground state…Organizers denied that the effort is intended to drive up conservative turnout but acknowledged the measure could work to Trump’s benefit by forcing Democratic candidates to say whether they support noncitizen voting in local elections." (Washington Post)

washington watch

The EPA building in Washington, DC.
  • A bipartisan group of Senators objected to FOIA changes at the EPA. "A bipartisan group of senators on Monday accused the Environmental Protection Agency of violating public records laws when it issued changes, without prior notice, to its regulations governing Freedom of Information Act requests. Last month, the EPA filed changes to its FOIA rules to the Federal Register, which became effective immediately. The changes affirmatively grant that political appointees, including the administrator and deputy administrators, can respond to FOIA requests, either releasing or withholding documents…In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler Monday, Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that change conflicts with federal case law." (Government Executive)
  • House Ethics Committee working group set to discuss restrictions on lawmakers' corporate roles. "A House Ethics Committee working group on Thursday will discuss proposed regulations to govern what kind of roles lawmakers may perform in companies, part of a push to head off the kind of ethical issues that led to the federal indictment of Rep. Chris Collins, who is accused of trading insider information while simultaneously serving as a company board member and public official. That working group — comprised of Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas and Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa.— will consider what types of service or positions with outside entities could lead to actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The Outside Positions Working Group will meet publicly July 25 in 1310 Longworth House Office Building at 3:30 p.m." (Roll Call)
  • K Street had a profitable second quarter thanks to trade, health care debates. "K Street's boom is going strong after the second quarter of 2019, which saw lobbying firms show strong earnings as they worked on President Trump's trade agenda, a bipartisan push for drug pricing reforms and other issues. And a new firm is in the highest-grossing spot, according to the latest Lobbying Disclosure Act reports. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck closed its gap on longtime leader Akin Gump and reported $10.07 million in revenue for the second quarter of 2019." (The Hill)
  • The FEC's GOP commissioners let Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign slide past illegal coordination claims. "Deadlocked on a party-line vote, the Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint that Hillary Clinton’s campaign illegally coordinated with a super PAC during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Continuing a recent trend with the embattled regulatory agency that is currently missing two of six commissioners, it was the Republican commissioners, not Democrats, who voted to stonewall enforcement action over the complaint. Just one month before the 2016 presidential election, Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the Clinton campaign illegally coordinated with Correct the Record, a hybrid PAC run by Media Matters for America founder David Brock." (Center for Responsive Politics))


A screenshot from EDGI's report shows how they track mentions of climate change on federal websites. 
  • New report details the extent of censorship of climate-change related terms on federal websites. "On Monday, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) released a new report on how the Trump administration has altered the use of climate change-related terms on federal websites. In their latest report, 'The New Digital Landscape: How The Trump Administration Has Undermined Federal Web Infrastructures For Climate Information,' EDGI analyzed 5,301 federal government webpages covering environmental issues from an array of agencies, including the EPA, USDA, FEMA, and HHS, and tallied the use of various climate change-related terms on them. The group found that "the use of the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘clean energy,’ and ‘adaptation’ dropped by 26% between 2016 and 2018.” The use of the term 'climate change' itself decreased from 6,552 mentions in 2016 to 4,912 in 2018." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The EPA IG is set to investigate the agency's former air quality chief for ethics violations. "The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general will investigate allegations that William L. Wehrum, the agency’s former air quality chief, violated ethics rules when he met with former clients from his days as a lawyer and lobbyist for the oil, gas and coal industries. The inquiry will look into whether Mr. Wehrum’s efforts at the E.P.A. to weaken climate change and air pollution standards improperly benefited those former clients, a congressional aide said." (New York Times)
  • Did two unofficial envoys work to connect Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, with Ukrainian officials in an attempt to turn up 2020 election dirt? "Two unofficial envoys reporting directly to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer have waged a remarkable back-channel campaign to discredit the president’s rivals and undermine the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian meddling in US elections.In a whirlwind of private meetings, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — who pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican campaigns and dined with the president — gathered repeatedly with top officials in Ukraine and set up meetings for Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani as they turned up information that could be weaponized in the 2020 presidential race." (BuzzFeed)


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