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 http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December 17, 2014 5:14 PM

In response to recent emails and phone calls I have received regarding my “yes” vote on HB 3796, I would like to explain why this legislation will, in fact, increase access to public records and improve the way voluminous or large Freedom of Information Act requests are processed.

HB 3796, which was vetoed by the governor but overridden by the Senate (49-1-0) and House of Representatives (77-36-1) this fall, will increase government transparency by allowing public bodies to more efficiently respond to FOIA requests for information that is available on the Internet while giving public bodies more time and flexibility to deal with voluminous FOIA requests.

By allowing public bodies to refer FOIA requesters to public websites for valuable government information, it will save time and money for requesters and public bodies. It is anticipated many public bodies will choose to make public records available online rather than expend valuable and scarce resources to deal with routine FOIA requests, which will increase transparency and availability of public records. By allowing more time and flexibility to deal with voluminous requests, public bodies will remain responsible for making public records accessible, but will be able to manage large FOIA requests in a way that effectively uses the resources of the public body. Continue>>>
======
 

December 17, 2014 4:52 PM

Advocates for greater openness in government were frustrated after Congress failed to update the Freedom of Information Act despite bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Without a new law, government agencies are likely to continue stonewalling requests for records and other information, said Amy Bennett, assistant director of OpenTheGovernment.org, an advocacy group.

"The only thing that changes an agency's behavior is an act of Congress," she said. Continue>>>
======

December 12, 2014 9:22 AM

The House must act by the time it adjourns Thursday if the bill is to become law this year. We urge the House to pass it.

According to The Washington Post, "The measure would also limit a FOIA exemption that allows the government to withhold records that are subject to executive privilege or that are part of sensitive decision-making processes. It would requiring agencies to release the information after 25 years.''

Classified information is exempt. Continue>>>
======

December 8, 2014 1:56 PM

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act creates a monumental challenge for federal agencies. Government leaders, watchdog groups and citizens want to make sure tax dollars are being used in productive, efficient ways free from waste and fraud. They also want proof that publicly funded programs are performing well against stated missions and executing within budget.

The only way to know is by seeing the proof: the data itself. Government agencies can't just analyze and manage data. They must also share it in ways that are insightful and useful. The demand for government transparency and accountability is here to stay.

But open data should be viewed as an opportunity as much as a challenge -- an opportunity to encourage greater citizen participation and save precious budget dollars in the process. In fact, open data could be a huge money-saver. A McKinsey and Co. study has suggested that open data could allow government agencies to recover a combined $3 trillion a year or more. But those savings won't happen automatically. Continue>>>
======

November 17, 2014 2:20 PM

The Florida Supreme Court stood unanimously on the side of good government Thursday when it ruled that the public has a right to see documents a Republican consultant created in connection with the Legislature's once-a-decade redistricting process. Now, barring an ill-advised rehearing request by the document owner, Floridians will be able to judge for themselves what role outsiders played in the controversial 2012 redistricting process. The court has reaffirmed its commitment and the state Constitution's requirement to open government.

Thursday's order came months after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled — based on some documents that were sealed by an emergency order of the state Supreme Court — that two congressional districts drawn in 2012 violated requirements in the state Constitution that districts be drawn without regard to protecting incumbents or political parties. State lawmakers met this summer in special sessions to draw a new map that was used in last week's election. Now the Supreme Court has reviewed the sealed documents and ordered them opened. They belong to Gainesville political consultant Pat Bainter and his firm, Data Targeting Inc., and were found by Lewis to provide strong circumstantial evidence that he and other consultants had engaged in "a parallel redistricting process" in an effort to "subvert the political process."

Bainter initially argued the 538 pages of documents contained trade secrets central to his business. Then, as the trial was under way, he argued that the plaintiff's subpoena for the documents violated his First Amendment rights. On Thursday, the justices' rejected both claims and took particular umbrage at the late filing of the First Amendment objection, suggesting it was simply a trial tactic aimed at obfuscating the "truth-finding function of our justice system." Continue>>>
======
 

November 5, 2014 11:51 AM

If Amsterdam, N.Y. Mayor Ann Thane spent as much time addressing reality as she does dodging it — or
giving it a fresh coat of white wash — she might have more time to fix what’s broken here on the home front.

The polarizing leader of this fair city is nearing the final year of her second term in office and as each day passes finds more ways to point the finger at everyone else, bemoaning their flaws and inabilities, instead of taking a good hard look at where the buck truly stops.

In her latest inexplicable denial of accountability, the mayor has spent the better part of three months rebuffing requests from this newspaper — via the Freedom of Information Act —for information pertaining to the financial status of the city of Amsterdam. This, from the same person who scheduled a forum on open government featuring the state’s go-to authority on thesubject, Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government. Continue>>>
======
 

October 20, 2014 12:04 PM

I learned many things last Tuesday. A young gentleman proudly told me of a youth-led initiative in Cameroon supporting government reforms by leading regulatory trainings for public healthcare providers. A young woman shared with me her desire to learn how to analyze the budget data her government recently made available. And another gentleman currently working at an NGO in India shared with me how social media has revolutionized the way local governments are responding and enhancing their service delivery.

These are all stories from last week's World Bank Group's Youth Summit 2014: The Need for Open and Responsive Governments. Over 300 young leaders from government, academia, civil society and the international community convened to hear speakers, engage with peers and learn new tools to support their work in promoting open governments. Hundreds more participated through our livestream broadcast and in World Bank offices from Tbilisi, Georgia to San Salvador, El Salvador.

I had the distinct pleasure to chair this year's conference and moderate the first session with Erion Veliaj, minister of social welfare and youth in Albania. He energized the audience by sharing part of his story, the motivations and challenges of entering Albanian politics, and how it's in the best interest of governments to be more transparent as it's the people who hold the voting power. Continue>>>
======
 

October 16, 2014 11:38 PM

Meet Ben Balter. He's a Government Evangelist at GitHub, where he leads the efforts to encourage adoption of open source philosophies, making all levels of government better, one repository at a time.

Ben was a member of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows and also served as a Fellow in the Office of the US Chief Information Officer, helping to draft the Presidentís Digital Strategy and Open Data Policy. As both an attorney and a developer, he's probably spent more time pondering and writing about Federal IT Procurement rules than most people would agree is healthy.

Ben will be talking about Software Development as a Civic Service at next week's All Things Open conference, and he answered a few questions for us about what the US government is doing right (and wrong) in terms of open technologies and policies. Continue>>>
======
 

October 13, 2014 1:49 PM

The League of Women Voters of Calvert County released a nearly 80-page report on its findings regarding the transparency of the Calvert County government, using three 'case studies' in the group's analysis: the expansion of the Dominion Cove Point facility in Lusby, development surrounding the former Calvert Middle School property and the preparation of the annual county budget and Capital Improvement Plan.

The report lists areas of improvement the county can make for public participation and transparency. Roberta Safer, the league's first vice president and editor of the study, said the purpose of the report is not to take a stance on issues but, rather, to encourage dialogues with the county government about transparency.

ìWhat we want is a dialogue with the commissioners,î Safer said in an interview Wednesday. ìÖ We have no beef with anybody or anything.' The study is the result of months of work by the 'eague's observer corps and other members and was given to the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners at its regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 7. The league was expected to hold a town hall meeting on the study on Thursday, Oct. 9, after time of press. Continue>>>
======
 

October 13, 2014 1:43 PM

Gov. Terry Branstad on Thursday proposed creating a Government Accountability Portal to make state government more open, transparent and accountable to Iowa citizens. Branstad said the new entity would be a 'one-stop shop' housed within the Iowa Public Information Board for Iowans to register comments, concerns, questions or suggestions regarding state government and its operations.

The new approach would require a response to an 'input' from Iowa citizens within 24 hours and would require acknowledgment from the appropriate state agency within 48 hours, so that the citizen knows with whom the discussion will continue, according to a news release from the Branstad-Reynolds campaign.

Branstad said he and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have made transparency a hallmark of their administration, beginning with the resumption of weekly news conference to directly respond to questions from the media and naming former Iowa Newspaper Association executive Bill Monroe as the state's first transparency adviser to the governor. Continue>>>
======
 

October 8, 2014 12:53 PM

Many people continue to be surprised that the voters of San Jose, Calif., a city with twice as many Democrats as Republicans, approved a public-pension-reform ballot measure in June 2012 with a nearly 70 percent yes vote. How is this possible in liberal California, despite stringent objections from public-employee unions?

Two words: open government.

Before the vote, San Jose experienced 10 years of cutting services to balance the budget. Thousands of city jobs were eliminated. Layoffs included police officers and firefighters.

In 2011, the city council adopted a fiscal reform plan that saved San Jose from service-delivery insolvency. The pension-reform ballot measure is just one element of this plan. The resultant savings have allowed San Jose to avoid insolvency and improve services for three straight years. Continue>>>
======
 

September 23, 2014 8:51 AM

The more transparent and open governments can be, the better for everyone. To most people, transparency has to do with disclosure. Providing information about an issue, event, project, policy, program etc. and then providing a way for people to find and view that information.

Typically, that would suffice. However, when the term is applied in our system of government that particular definition does not go far enough to meet the publicís (expected) definition of transparency. In a democratic government, transparency should be defined as disclosure and discussion.

Transparency means helping the public understand how and why decisions that influence them are made. It means being accountable to the taxpayer. It's much easier to issue edicts with little or no explanation, give canned responses (we appreciate your input..), and clock out at the end of the day without a care because you have the power and no one is allowed to question you. Continue>>>
======
 

Syndicate content