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Tag Archive: cities

Which of Your Local Candidates Support Transparency?


In anticipation of this year’s local elections, many open government advocacy groups have surveyed local candidates on open data issues and shared the results in hopes of informing and mobilizing citizens to vote for candidates that are committed to transparency. We’ve seen open data questionnaires conducted around North America this fall for a variety of motivating factors, including: To Fight Past Corruption, To Foster New Open Data Initiatives—or simply—To Maintain Current Open Data Momentum. This trend of open data surveys is indicative of a widespread interest in transparency issues this election season, and with a growing number local governments adopting administratively-sensitive open data laws, a trend we likely see more of in the future.

Below we have rounded up a mini-landscape of open data candidate questionnaires distributed this election season.

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Oakland’s Public Participation Route to Open Data Legislation


Steve Spiker and Eddie Tejeda (open data policy organizers) sharing OpenOakland’s work at East Bay Mini Maker Faire. Oakland passed an open data law earlier this month (October 15, 2013) that was generated by the people and for the people. Open Oakland captain Steve Spiker (Spike) gathered the Open Oakland and broader open government community to draft and chat the best open data policy for Oakland. Spike and Open Oakland, in addition to garnering support for the open data policy, cultivated the policy from start to finish through drafting, public comments, a call to experts, and [teleconferenced] public meetings. Open Oakland serves as an excellent example of the community's role in generating open data policy, and their public input process is an exemplar route to  incorporating public perspectives into policy. The Sunlight Foundation's Guideline to incorporating public perspective into policy implementation reads as follows:

Implementing the details of an open data policy will benefit from public participation. Open data policies not only have effects government-wide, which will require consideration, but also have consequences for a variety of stakeholder groups outside of the government. Allowing these groups to participate in the decision-making process (and make real contributions) can have great benefits for policy creation and execution. Stakeholders and experts can bring to the table valuable new perspectives that highlight challenges or opportunities that might not otherwise be obvious. Formal mechanisms for collaboration can include hearings, draft proposals open for public comment and contribution, and online resources like wikis and email lists.
Below we have outlined Oakland's public input process and how it is part of a growing trend to openly include community perspective, desires, and concerns into open data policy.

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Boilerplate Open Data Policy and Why It’s a Problem


In preparation for the revamping of our Open Data Policy Guidelines, we reviewed all twenty-three  of the current local (city, county and state) open data policies on the books since their debut in 2006. These “open data policies” ranged in form from government administrative memos ordering the release of “high-value” datasets to legislation calling for open data policy planning to the newest member of the open data policy family, South Bend, Indiana’s executive order. Our main takeaway: There has been a lot of copying and pasting amongst policies, confusion on common open data terminology, and missed opportunities for information disclosure, but best practices are emerging.

Copying and pasting boilerplate legislative language is as old as law itself. In fact, legal precedent is built on throwbacks, edits, and remixes. The modern day copying and pasting feature has served as a technological blessing in legal matters that require a high level of repetition, such as producing demand letters for common legal claims, or, for one of Sunlight’s favorite exercises of individual rights, completing a public records or freedom of information request. However, when copying and pasting enters more nuanced areas of law, such as contract or legislation drafting, significant complications can arise. Without the proper edits or engaged collaborative thinking required in policy drafting, the ever tempting copy/paste model falls short. Below we explore just how borrowed open data legislative language thus far has been and examples of where it’s been the least helpful.

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Join us for a Free Webinar on Open Data in Local Governments


Sunlight Foundation's local policy team is excited to be teaming up today with the National League of Cities and Harvard Ash Center to host a free webinar examining open data policies in local governments and their impacts. More cities are sharing their data online  to increase municipal transparency -- a movement that prompted us to update our Open Data Guidelines to reflect the advances that have been made and highlight emerging opportunities. This webinar will look at those advances and opportunities, in addition to defining what open data is and how policies can guide its release. We're pleased to announce that Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaaf will  join the discussion to provide insight on the city's experience with releasing more open data and its impacts in the community. We hope you can join us for this free webinar from 1-2 p.m. ET today. This webinar will also lay the foundation for a deep-dive session at NLC's Congress of Cities and Exposition in Seattle, Engaging Residents in Solutions: Using Data and Technology to Improve Local Government (on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 9:00 a.m.), which will feature Stephen Goldsmith of the Harvard Ash Center (and former mayor of Indianapolis), Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia, and Laurenellen McCann of the Sunlight Foundation.

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The State of Local Procurement

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This summer, Code for America, Omidyar Network, and the Sunlight Foundation joined forces to investigate municipal procurement trends, best practices, and potential areas of improvement across the country with a Local Government Procurement Survey.

The survey yielded 31 total responses, representing a total of 28 cities and counties, ranging in population from 13,881 to 2.7 million and hailing from every region of the continental United States. The majority of respondents (93%) were government employees working with or in the purchasing department.

The Local Government Procurement Survey asked cities about procurement process data disclosure, the formal and informal procurement process for IT contracts, and what challenges existed in their current procurement system. Check out more details on our initial results below.

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Recommendations for Stronger Crime Data


crime scene

Releasing crime data is important to keeping the public informed about what is happening where they live, work, and play. The information from crime reports, specifically, fuels a wide variety of news stories and apps that keep people updated on important public safety issues. Improving the quality and format of crime data releases would help encourage the continued creation of these kinds of stories and apps and maximize their impact, keeping the public better informed about an issue that many local governments already closely track.

There are several steps those who control crime data could take to improve the quality and formats of the information, especially related to crime reports. Many of these ideas, outlined below, can be found in our Open Data Policy Guidelines.

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Your Guidelines to Open Data Guidelines Pt. 2: Stages of Development


In revisiting Sunlight’s Open Data Policy Guidelines for our Version 2.0 release, we took a closer look at other sources for open data guidance that have been released over the years. To see a comprehensive round up of open data guidance (complete with a timeline!) see Part 1 of Your Guideline to Open Data Guidelines: The History.

Although it’s only been eight years since the first resource of this kind was created with the Open Knowledge Foundation's Open Knowledge Definition, exploring open data guidance in its totality not only shows how much these recommendations build on each other, but how the movement has matured. Moreover, many of these resources occupy separate-–but overlapping-–arenas of expertise, though an outside perspective may not immediately catch their nuances. Below, we’ll explore in more detail the three major themes of open data guidance: How to Define Open Data, How to Implement Open Data, and How to Open an Open Data Discussion.

The sequence, prevalence, and layering of these themes showcase the developmental stages of the open data movement thus far. Over the years we have seen open data advocacy emerge from its nascent expert-driven defining period to becoming (quite self-referentially) a public discussion. We’ve seen different missions of the major players in the open data movement inform nuanced definitions and implementation recommendations, and we have seen an increase in best practice assessments, academic critique, and diverging schools of thought.

To understand this larger story, let us look at each piece.

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