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Tag Archive: Illinois

Unions, Obama dark money group press GOP on immigration

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A new fight over immigration appears to be brewing, but it likely has more to do with the 2014 elections than with any real chance legislation will be passed.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appeared to close that door on Wednesday, when he ruled out any negotiations over the sweeping immigration law the Senate passed in June. On the same day, Organizing for Action, the dark money committee that grew out of President Barack Obama's campaign, sent an email to supporters calling on them to pressure Republican lawmakers to take up the immigration bill. The committee suggested targeting Rep ...

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OpenGov Voices: Data provides constant revelations for central Illinois communities

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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 FoundationBrant Houston - professor of journalism or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Brant Houston is the Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the College of Media at the University of Illinois and Editor in Chief of CU-CitizenAccess -- a community online news and information project devoted to investigative and enterprise coverage of social, justice and economic issues in east central Illinois. He can be reached at brant.houston@gmail.com

CU-CitizenAccess.org, an award-winning online newsroom, was launched with public data and it continues to thrive and grow with data about the central Illinois region.

Conceived as a digital platform for university students, faculty and journalism professionals, the project began with a review of basic Census data for the communities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois in 2008. (Thus, the “C” for Champaign and the “U” for Urbana.) The data revealed what seemed like a surprisingly high percentage of people living in poverty – about 20 percent – in a county that is home to the University of Illinois, a top public educational institution.

But as we scanned the data, we knew there were questions about whether college students, with low earned income, were distorting the numbers. So we looked at the percentage of subsidized school lunches and saw that more than half the school children were receiving lunches. We also read news stories and talked with the staff at the local newspaper and realized there was more than a story to pursue – that there was an ongoing project.

While collecting more data and information, we worked with colleagues to raise funds from a local community foundation, matching money from the Knight Foundation’s Community Information program, and from the University. By the spring 2009, work was underway by Illinois journalism alum Pam Dempsey and Shelley Smithson. In December 2009, the website was up and running and alum Acton Gorton, was helping administer the website while reporting too.

CU Citizen Access
An illustrative representation of an interactive story about the efforts to clean toxic waste from a neighborhood community in Urbana, IL. Image by Acton H. Gorton for CU-CitizenAccess.org

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OpenGov Voices: Keeping Tabs on Your Local City Council with Councilmatic

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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 Derek Ederemployee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Derek Eder is a co-founder of Open City, a group of volunteers in Chicago that create apps with open data to improve citizen understanding of our government through transparency, and owner of DataMade, a civic technology and open data consultancy.

City councils shape nearly every aspect of city life, from what kind of canopy you can have on a storefront, to how much we pay in taxes, to the number of cops on the street.

Unfortunately, it is hard for citizens to keep tabs on what their city council is doing. A few years ago, if you wanted to be informed about a city council’s actions, you had to go to the clerk’s office and page through the hundreds or thousands of bills that were added or updated every month.

In recent years, many city clerks have taken a big step forward by publishing this legislation online. However, the current generation of municipal legislative information systems are mainly built to help councilmembers and clerks’ offices manage legislation. They were not built to help the public to understand what their city council is doing.

Well, like so many of our problems, now there’s an app for that: Councilmatic.

Chicago Councilmatic 1

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Obama taps Romney donors for labor board

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Logo of National Labor Relations BoardWhether it's a sign of post-partisanship or sheer exasperation is hard to say, but two of the three nominees that President Barack Obama today tapped for seats on the National Labor Relations Board donated to the Republican who wanted to take his place.

Harry I. Johnson donated $1,500 to Mitt Romney's unsuccessful presidential campaign last year and Philip Miscimarra gave Romney $1,000, according to data downloaded from Sunlight's Influence Explorer.

Both are Republican labor attorneys who, while not prolific donors, have also made other contributions to GOP committees. To view Johnson's donations, click here ...

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Creating Tools for Civic Engagement and providing a home for activists and hacktivists

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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. Tom Tresser is the Chief Tool Builder at the CivicLab. He teaches civic engagement, public policy and creativity at several local universities. In 2009 he was a co-leader of the No Games Chicago campaign and in 2010 he was the Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President. Wouldn’t it be great to have a place to connect with activists, practitioners of civic engagement, inventors and artists interested in social change? A place that is a combination of a lab, a lounge, a theater, a clubhouse and a school for social change. In Chicago there isn’t one that combines all this in a storefront space with a grassroots vibe that invites people to walk in and connect. A gang of like-minded civic scientists and makers are well into the process of designing and launching one! The CivicLab will be civic maker space. Think of Pumping Station One meets FreeGeek meets 1871 meets the Knitting Factory with a dash of open source tool making and the Little Red School House plus CommuniTeach. Chicago is the home of modern community organizing and has also been a hotspot of innovation and research. We want to be a meeting space where old school organizers and educators can meet with new school technologists and designers to do research, teach civics, and build tools that accelerate social change and community improvement efforts.

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Davis deletes 13 consecutive tweets following debate

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Republican Rodney Davis, in a tight race with Democrat David Gill for Illinois' 13th Congressional District, deleted 13 consecutive posts from his Twitter account Thursday, hours after they were posted to his account during the congressional candidates' only debate of the campaign.

The debate highlighted many of the candidates' differences and provided insight into many of their positions including...their stance on Twitter? Both candidates' teams were actively tweeting during the debate;  however Team Davis, which posted 17 tweets during the course of the debate, deleted 13 consecutive posts less than a day later. Politwoops, the Sunlight Foundation's database ...

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