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Tag Archive: Chicago

How Unique is the New U.S. Open Data Policy?

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The White House’s new Executive Order may be significantly different than the open data policies that have come before it on the federal level, but where does it stand in a global -- and local -- context? Many folks have already jumped at the chance to compare this new US executive order and the new policies that accompany it to a similar public letter issued by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010, but little attention has been paid to one of the new policy’s most substantial provisions: the creation of a public listing of agency data based on an internal audits of information holdings. As administrative as this provision might sound, the creation of this listing (and the accompanying scoping of what information isn’t yet public, but could be released) is part of the next evolution of open data policies (and something Sunlight has long called for as a best practice). So does this policy put the U.S. on the leading edge?

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Evaluating Municipal Lobbying Data: Chicago

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Chicago-skyline

“Consistent” is not the first word one would use to describe the landscape of lobbying data released by municipalities. As revealed by our research, the formats and range of information local governments collect and disclose about lobbying activity varies quite a bit from one community context to another. After exploring the best practices for collecting and releasing this information, we created and recently published a Municipal Lobbying Data Guidebook. This guide addresses not only what kinds of information should be included in an ideal lobbying dataset, but also information about how that data should be collected and shared, regulated, and examples of the impact of having this information made available in an open way. (Something we’ll continue to explore in future posts.)

So how do municipalities measure up to these standards? We took a close look at three cities -- Austin, Chicago, and Philadelphia -- to explore what they’re doing well and where their lobbying disclosure can improve.

Last week we covered Austin. Now we turn to Chicago.

I. What data is available

Chicago has two hubs for its information related to lobbying: One is on the Board of Ethics website, and the other is in its data portal, though you can also find these records in the reports section of the Electronic Lobbyist Filing System, which links to a search function and back to the data portal. As we noted when we surveyed the landscape of municipal lobbying data, Chicago appears to release some of the most detailed lobbyist data among U.S. cities. The city's data portal contains information about registered lobbyists, activity, compensation, gifts, expenditures, and termination. Many cities don't collect this much detailed information, let alone post it online.

This data includes many of the form fields mentioned in our Guidebook and some further levels of detail. Registration and termination forms for 2013 include lobbyist names, addresses, and contact information; the filing date and termination date, if relevant; and client information including their address, contact information and industry.

Activity reports include the name of the agency contacted by the lobbyist along with the client being represented and the topic of the action requested. The reports also show how many administrative or legislative actions were requested.

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House panel tries to open the (financial) books of presidential libraries

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As President Obama faces choosing between Hawaii and Chicago as the site of his presidential library, a House committee today greenlighted a bill that would make donors to the institution public.

The next step will be a vote in the full House.

The bill would require future presidential library foundations to report donors to the National Archives on a quarterly basis. The Archives would then post them online in a searchable, downloadable database. The Sunlight Foundation's policy counsel, Daniel Schuman, testified in favor of the measure last week.

The state of Hawaii wants the library near this spot in ...

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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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