Today in OpenGov: Official business


In today's edition, we explore impact evaluation for civic tech, the FEC loses its quorum with the resignation of its vice chair, President Trump tries to drum up some official business for his Florida golf club, and more. 

states and cities

A simple civic tech evaluation canvas. Via Sunlight Foundation.
  • Exploring the issue of impact assessment in civic tech. "At the Open Government Partnership Summit in Ottawa last spring, Sunlight, BetaNYC, DATA Uruguay, ILDA, and the Digital Minister of Taiwan came together to explore the issue of impact assessment. Even occupying differing roles within our countries’ civic tech and data ecosystems, we wanted to promote shared, holistic evaluations of cultural and social progress that might emerge from open government and civic tech reforms. Our goal was to apply a simple but powerful canvas tool to help our peers plan to measure immediate and long-term results of their projects. In groups, participants used a specific project they were working on as an example and discussed whether the tool would help them meaningfully evaluate and reflect on their own work." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • How better data could improve rural health outcomes. "A new effort to compile better data on rural public health could help address the startling health gaps between people in rural and urban areas. In Washington, for instance, rural residents are one-third more likely to die from intentional self-harm or 13% more likely to die from heart disease. While statistics like these help guide public health policy and spending, they can hide even greater health disparities within those rural communities, says lead author Betty Bekemeier, director of the School of Public Health’s Northwest Center for Public Health Practice and a professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Washington." (Futurity)
  • How an email system change resulted in major FOIA issues for Gainesville, Florida. "A flaw in a recent email migration at City Hall has opened Gainesville up to possible litigation for its unreasonable time to fulfill record requests, or so some city officials fear. The city's IT department had recently upgraded its email system for more storage and better performance. But a July records request from The Sun — that has taken six weeks to only partially fulfill — has thrown City Hall's ability to obtain those records into question. City officials say the request has made them realize that they are unable to easily access deleted emails and that the ongoing snafu will leave citizens who want records waiting longer than usual and being charged for the extra work." (Government Technology)

washington watch

FEC Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen. Image credit: Dave Levinthal/Center for Public Integrity.
  • Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced his resignation, effectively shutting down the already hobbled body. "Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced his resignation today.  This means the agency that enforces and regulates the nation’s campaign finance laws will effectively shut down — something that hasn’t happened since 2008 — because it won’t have the legal minimum of four commissioners to make high-level decisions…For now, the FEC can’t conduct meetings. It can’t slap political scofflaws with fines. It can’t make rules. It can’t conduct audits and approve them. It can’t vote on the outcome of investigations." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Rep. Richard Neal's Facebook page appears to mix campaign and congressional business. "House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal used his government-funded official Facebook page to air campaign advertisements, Facebook Ad Library shows, potentially running afoul of House Ethics rules that prohibit campaign business on House official resources. In Neal’s official Facebook page disclaimer, up to $100 were spent on the ads in 2018 paid for by 'Richard Neal for Congress Committee, Treasurer Michael F. Hall,' suggesting Neal’s campaign funds paid for the ad to air through the House office’s Facebook page." (Roll Call)
  • Greg Craig, on trial for lies tied to his foreign lobbying, adamantly resisted filing as a foreign agent. "Greg Craig, the former Obama White House counsel, adamantly resisted registering as a foreign agent for his Ukraine-related work, citing concerns that doing so could complicate efforts by him or others to go to work for the U.S. government in the future, a senior partner at Craig’s former law firm testified Monday. Skadden Arps general counsel Lawrence Spiegel testified that Craig, who’s facing a criminal charge of trying to deceive the Justice Department about his work, was unusually emphatic as he argued internally that Skadden personnel should not be required to file as foreign agents for its project investigating the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of Ukraine." (POLITICO)


Image credit: QuoteInspector.
  • President Trump wants to host the next G-7 meeting at his Florida golf resort… "Presidents usually use international summits to advance their policy agenda on the world stage. But President Trump turned a public appearance in southern France on Monday into what sounded like an infomercial for his sagging golf and resort business in southern Florida. In suggesting that the next Group of 7 summit of world leaders should be at his own luxury golf resort in Doral, Fla., west of Miami, Mr. Trump put the most glaring spotlight to date on his willingness to flout the ethical boundaries that have historically constrained activities that mix for-profit business and the presidency." (New York Times)
  • …Marking a good moment to look back at Trump's history of trying to profit off of his presidency. "NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with David Fahrenthold of The Washington Postabout President Trump's history of profiting off his presidency." (NPR)
  • Trump administration rule change gives an unconfirmed political appointee ultimate say on immigration court decisions. "The Trump administration implemented a policy change Monday to enable the head of immigration courts to overrule judges on cases, causing an uproar among career employees who said their independence will now be usurped by a political appointee.  Currently, the attorney general has the authority to override decisions issued by career immigration judges in the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review after they are appealed to a central board. An interim rule, which the department issued on Friday and took effect Monday, will delegate that responsibility to the EOIR director. The director, who is appointed by the president but not confirmed by the Senate, can now issue decisions on cases pending before the appeals board that 'have not been timely resolved in order to allow more practical flexibility in efficiently deciding appeals.'" (Government Executive)


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