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Tag Archive: Code for America

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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Get Funded with Sunlight’s New OpenGov Grants

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We’re happy to announce our new OpenGov Grants program to help you fulfill your vision of making government more transparent and accountable.

We know how challenging fundraising can be. You start an innovative project using technology to make government more open and accessible and halfway through -- you run out of money. At Sunlight, we’ve been there, and that's why we want to help you out. (Don't be misled by our name -- we’re not a foundation with an endowment, but rather a nonprofit that competes for grants just like any other 501 c3 charitable organization.) Indeed, we know how challenging fundraising can be.

With the financial support of Google.org, our new OpenGov Grants program will offer one-time grants in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 to help you achieve your vision of opening up government through creative innovations. OpenGov Grants can support anything from making a cool app to help residents understand how local government works, to creating an open source site to navigate state or local spending data to extending the capabilities of one of Sunlight’s own websites or apps. We’ll give priority to projects that develop open source software or data. (For details on what we will and won’t fund, please visit our FAQ.) Get inspired to apply by watching our video.

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Your Guideline to Open Data Guidelines Pt. 1: The History

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Last summer, Sunlight released a series of Open Data Guidelines in reaction to a surge of municipal open data policy making. In anticipation of revamping these policies this summer (to add fresh context, ideas, and exemplary language) and in reaction to a recent surge in open data policy collaboration as evidenced by the interactive Project Open Data and the newly public (beta) Open Data Stack Exchange (or maybe more accurately in reaction to the Meta Open Data Stack Exchange...), we wanted to provide a roadmap to the world open data resources and recommendations that are available to put these resources in context of their evolution over time–a guideline to Open Data Guidelines, if you will. The first step in navigating the open data guidelines out there is to examine the chronology of how they surfaced.

The timeline below provides a landscape of current open data policy guidelines, guidance, and principles that exist and showcases the chronology in which they have manifested, each guideline often directly building off of (or crafted in reaction to) its predecessor. Looking at these guidelines in context exposes the pragmatic and technical evolutions in thought that have occurred under the banner of open data pursuit: from the foundational drive to define what information is legally available (through FOIA and other public records laws) to the trailblazing concept of proactive disclosure (where "public" access means "online" access) to establishing the qualities that make data more accessible and usable (emphasizing structured, bulk data, unique IDs, and APIs). The dialogue for discussing open data policy guidelines has itself evolved from the gathering of smaller open government groups of: Open House Project, Open Government Working Group, the Open Government Initiative, and early collaborative efforts such as the Open Gov Handbook, to the editable Project Open Data and the Q&A Open Data Stack Exchange.

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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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