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OpenGov Voices: “Don’t get mad. Get data!”

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog. Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and president of 371 Productions, a Milwaukee-based company that makes media and technology projects for the common good. BizVizz is a corporate accountability mobile app inspired by his latest film, As Goes Janesville, which premiered on the PBS series, Independent Lens. He can be reached at @bradleylbar In 1973, I got into a fight with an older, big, mean 8 year old because he (or more likely his parents) loved Nixon. In my squeaky kid-rage voice I screamed that Nixon was a criminal who lied to us. He pushed me down then promptly kicked me out of our neighborhood car city. I fought back by sneaking out that night to sabotage his area. I remember this story vividly some 30 years later because it reminds me of how intense the feeling of rage can be and how useless it is to vent it in destructive ways. BizVizzBizVizz, our corporate accountability app, was born by a similar rage. Toward the end of As Goes Janesville, my PBS/Independent Lens documentary about a GM town trying to recover from their century-old plant’s shutdown, the city council votes to approve a $9 million incentive package for Shine Medical Technologies. That’s 20% of the town’s budget for a medical isotope startup that has pitted cities against each other to leverage tax breaks in exchange for the promise of jobs. The risk wasn’t what made me seethe so much as the way the city council and town leaders acted in the dark, subverting transparency by never disclosing the results of a third party audit of the company nor holding a public hearing despite the fact that taxpayers were footing the bill. Score another defeat for democracy.

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OpenGov Voices: Book preview: The Foundation for an Open Source City

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Jason Hibbets is the project manager at Red Hat and lead administrator for opensource.com. He has been applying open Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 3.40.01 PMsource principles in neighborhood organizations in Raleigh, NC for several years, highlighting the importance of transparency, collaboration, and community building. Follow the rest of his thoughts at @jhibbets. My latest writing project has been quite challenging. At the beginning of 2013, I wrapped up the first draft of a book I’m writing about the open government movement in Raleigh, North Carolina. The City of Raleigh has made a lot of progress over the last two years, which is part of the inspiration for collecting Raleigh’s story. The movement towards a more open and transparent government started to accelerate after the city council unanimously passed an open government policy. Raleigh is on the verge of defining their open data policy and a draft of their open data standards is currently posted on Open Raleigh. From my conversations with Jason Hare, the Open Data Program Manager for the City of Raleigh, the city is about to strategically release a bunch of open data. All this is in preparation for an upcoming Triangle Datapalooza, a region-wide event rumored for later this spring that aims to excite the entrepreneurial community about open data and discover new opportunities. This is all very exciting for civic geeks and hackers in the Triangle area. I’m excited because I saw an opportunity to collect Raleigh’s open government and open data story. I’m in the final stages of finishing the book. The first round of editing is complete and my editors and I are finalizing the latest changes. I plan to self-publish the book (paperback and eBook), and I’m considering starting an IndieGoGo campaign to help crowdfund the initial round of publishing. I am also crowdsourcing ideas for the book cover on my personal blog. Open Source City  

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OpenGov Voices: Innovative Investigations — How a Watchdog Group Uses the FOIA Process to Push the Limits of Transparency

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the Mary-Beth-Hutchins-Cause-of-Action_Thumbnailguest blog. Mary Beth Hutchins is the Communications Director at Cause of Action. Prior to joining Cause of Action, Hutchins spent several years at an Alexandria, VA-based public relations firm where she managed press outreach for a number of national non-profit groups. The need for government transparency has never been greater than it is right now and at Cause of Action, we’re working to make sure it happens. As a nonprofit government accountability organization, Cause of Action works to expose cronyism, waste, fraud and mismanagement in the federal government through a combination of investigations, education and litigation. With our staff of investigators, lawyers and communications professionals committed to government transparency, Cause of Action frequently uses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to shed light on otherwise opaque facets of the Federal Government.

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OpenGov Voices: Building a Community of Data Professionals and Opening Government Data, One Meetup at a Time

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guestsean_small blog.

Sean Patrick Murphy and Harlan Harris wrote this post. Sean has served as a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University for over a decade. When not doing research, he currently advises several startups and provides general data science and learning analytics consulting for EverFi. Follow him on Twitter (@SayHiToSean) or contact him at SayHiToSean@gmail.com Harlan has a PhD in Computer Science (Machine Learning) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and post-doctoral work in Cognitive Psychology at several universities. He currently is Senior Data Scientist at Kaplan Test Prep, and co-organizes Data Science DC. Follow him on Twitter (@HarlanH).

Potential
The greater National Capital Region (i.e. the DC metro area), has always had a wealth of technical talent, waist deep in data, calling the region home. Whether launching satellites at Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt to decrypting messages at the NSA, this region is literally littered with three (or more) letter organizations -- NIH, JHU, DoD, DARPA, AOL, NIST, etc. -- working extensively with data.

Despite this intense concentration of professionals who share this common bond, these groups exist in isolated silos preventing the open dissemination of knowledge and best practices that would accelerate progress across industries. A rising tide of data-expertise would indeed raise all ships.

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OpenGov Voices: Being average is your superpower

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog. 000093517 Sandra Moscoso runs the World Bank Finances Program (https://finances.worldbank.org) by day and works on community efforts around education, active transportation, and open government by night. Sandra lives in small, quaint, Washington, DC, where she tries to get a little biking in with her husband and two children. Follow: @sandramoscoso Last week, on my way home from work, I met a young man raising funds for a charity. He stood outside of a subway station and as part of his pitch, he asked, "if you could have any superpower, what would it be?" I offered the same answer I have been giving my children for years. "I have a superpower. It's reading." I suspect this both annoys and inspires my children. Given that annoying and inspiring are among my favorite parental duties, I rather like this answer. Since then, a few things have happened that are making me want to revise my response to that young man. The Sunlight Foundation recently announced its "new major focus" of "local government transparency," and this has me doing a lot of thinking about the work I do within my community and city I live in. I have come to realize something exciting. It turns out I have another superpower - I'm average.

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Opening Government: Oakland’s First CityCamp

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog. Spike is the Director of Research & Technology with Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland based social justice nonprofit and speaks nationally on data driven decision making and open data. He is the co-founder and captain of OpenOakland, a Code for America Brigade. An Aussie native, he became a dual US citizen last year and voted in his first ever American election.   I recently co-founded an organization called OpenOakland with former Code for America fellow Eddie Tejeda. One of our passions was that we both believe that government can and should be much more than a vending machine. Those of us in OpenOakland (all 20+ volunteers) dig the idea of government as a platform: a platform that supports safe communities, job growth, excellent schools, strategic business development and innovation. When our government operates more collaboratively and genuinely engages with our communities (as opposed to acting as a barrier), it facilitates so much more that can benefit our communities. To many, this is a new concept, but we believe that it matters how we perceive our governments. It's no secret that current local governments have a ton of changing to do, but it's unlikely that these changes will come about swiftly without all of us being involved and engaged and supporting our government staff and leaders to make these changes.

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