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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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