FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

June 9, 2014 7:02 AM

In a win for government transparency, a slew of strong new appointments for a city government watchdog group cleared their first round of approvals yesterday.

Society of Professional Journalists appointees Mark Rumold and Ali Winston, League of Women Voters appointee Allyson Washburn, and Attorney Lee Hepner were confirmed by the rules committee as appointments to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. That recommendation is now headed to the full Board of Supervisors for approval. "Make no mistake, the people want open government," Thomas Peele, co-chair of SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee told city supervisors at the rules committee. "As Justice Brandeis said: 'Sunshine is the best disenfectant.'"

The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force was formed in the '90s, and tasked with policing transparency laws granting interested citizens (and journalists) access to government records. Emails, policy documents, and research are all openly accessible to the public under the city's Sunshine Ordinance -- but someone has to make sure city government plays by the rules. That's where the task force comes in. Continue>>>

June 19, 2012 10:39 AM

From San Francisco Sentinel:

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, as Chair of the first U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Technology and Innovation Task Force, announced the Open Government Innovation Partnership – a call to action to help cities advance and prioritize innovation to drive job growth, economic development, improved efficiency and collaboration.

The USCM Technology and Innovation Task Force will be asking Mayors to join the partnership as active and committed partners to help build an ecosystem that will help cities advance and prioritize innovation to improve government.

March 23, 2012 3:09 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier. Be sure to check out Sunshine Week 2012 News while you're at it.

Hacking as a Civic Duty

With cities still weathering the effects of the recession, making the pitch for innovation and transparency to budget-conscious city officials can be difficult. Compounding the issue is that citizens embittered toward civic institutions may not see or understand the benefit of such initiatives.

Visit Shareable:Cities for the rest.

Utah Joins Iowa in Protecting Factory Farms From Cameras

Utah this week became the second state to impose criminal sanctions against anyone taking photos or making videos inside factory farms without permission. Coming less than a month after Iowa became the first state to adopt a so-called "ag-gag" law, the Utah bill signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert is designed to thwart animal welfare groups that have planted employees inside big farms to document incidents of animal abuse.

Visit Food Safety News for the rest.

Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD

SAN FRANCISCO—It's been over 50 years, but Wayne Ritchie says he can still remember how it felt to be dosed with acid.

Now in his mid-eighties and living in San Jose, Ritchie may be among the last of the living victims of MK-ULTRA, a Central Intelligence Agency operation that covertly tested lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on unwitting Americans in San Francisco and New York City from 1953 to 1964.

Visit SF Weekly for the rest.

U.S. Documents Describe Monitoring Effort Going Back to Early Cold War Years

Washington, D.C.—A central element of the current debate over how to deal with Iran's nuclear program has focused on the possible difficulty of destroying the Qom underground uranium enrichment facility via air strikes. However, documents posted today by the National Security Archive show that Qom is only the latest in a long series of alleged and real underground facilities that for decades have been a high priority challenge for U.S. and allied intelligence collection and analysis efforts, as well as for military planners.

Visit The National Security Archive for the rest.

Review of 738 county election websites shows need for improvement

In an average year, there are over 5,000 local ballot measures on ballots across the country. These include school district bond and tax votes, local LGBT issues, red light cameras, smoking bans, zoning, pensions,, marijuana taxes, to whether it is okay to raise backyard chickens. To make informed choices, voters need to know what’s going to be on their ballot.

However, our review of 738 county election websites between January-March 2012 shows that as many as 32% of county websites do not display any local ballot measure election information. Typically, it is the county election office that administers elections for the political jurisdictions within the county.  This includes school districts, cities, towns, villages, park and recreation districts, and other special districts, as well as the county itself.

Visit Sunlight Foundation for the rest.

Grassley: Wall Street insiders profit from secrecy

More than 12,600 lobbyists are registered with the federal government. You can track who they represent, what they lobby on, and how much they are paid. Registration has been the law since 1946. No one seems to argue its benefits. That’s why it’s puzzling that my effort to apply the same disclosure to a shadowy industry working for Wall Street is being treated as if the sky is falling.

Visit Des Moines Register for the rest.

Hillary Clinton's Remarks at the Transparency International-USA's Annual Integrity Award Dinner

"First, we’re expanding and mobilizing a global consensus in support of greater transparency – a global architecture, if you will, of anticorruption institutions and practices. Along with Brazil, we launched the Open Government Partnership. It is a network of support for government leaders and citizens working to bring more transparency and accountability to governments."

Visit U.S. Department of State for the rest.

After Massacre, Army Tried to Delete Accused Shooter From the Internet

The military waited six days before releasing the name of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians earlier this month. One of the reasons for the somewhat unusual delay: to give the military enough time to erase the sergeant from the internet — or at least try to. That’s according to several Pentagon officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to McClatchy newspapers about the subject. The scrubbed material included photographs of Bales from the military’s official photo and video distribution website, along with quotes by the 38-year-old sergeant in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord newspaper regarding a 2007 battle in Iraq “which depicts Bales and other soldiers in a glowing light.”

Visit Wired for the rest.

January 26, 2012 9:09 AM

From Tech President:

San Francisco’s a town with a lot of mobile apps that can help its residents to navigate everyday life in the city. Routesy provides real-time transit information; Mom Maps helps both residents and tourist parents alike quickly locate kid-friendly places to hang out; Zonability helps make local zoning rules more accessible.


Earlier this month, Mayor Ed Lee announced that the city is partnering with digital age civic group Code for America to create an “accelerator,” where young programmers will be given the opportunity to peer at the innards of city government, and to imagine commercially viable solutions that could help San Francisco, as well as other city governments, to be more efficient. Google is seeding the project with $1.5 million, and the Kauffman Foundation is also providing an unspecified amount.

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