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/.
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July 2, 2015 9:48 AM

When lawmakers race to pass budgets and bills by working into the early morning hours, as they did Tuesday and Wednesday, advocates of open government say they are working in the dark in more ways than one.

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center says unless people are inside the Capitol building in Olympia as policymakers craft last-minute changes to important legislation, they “have no idea what’s going on.”  Continue>>>

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July 1, 2015 9:15 AM

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s effort to outfit District police officers with body cameras hit a fresh obstacle Tuesday, when council members tried to block implementation of the program next year unless she ensures public transparency.

The D.C. Council voted Tuesday on the final details of the city’s 2016 budget — and included an amendment dictating that Bowser’s rollout of 1,200 additional police body cameras move forward only if she finds an estimated $1.5 million to cover the cost of Freedom of Information Act requests for footage.  Continue>>>

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June 30, 2015 1:04 PM

NORFOLK, Va., June 29, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PRA Government Services, a division of PRA Group (Nasdaq:PRAA), has launched EZTransparency™, a user-friendly, interactive tool to help council members, municipal staff and the public quickly visualize and understand complex city and county budgets.

A graphic accompanying this release is available at http://media.globenewswire.com/cache/8909/file/35235.pdf  Continue>>>

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June 29, 2015 10:35 AM

After last year's debacle involving the Hartford-based Jumoke Academy charter school operation, many legislators arrived at the Capitol this year on a mission to improve the control and regulation of charter schools. A new law, passed with overwhelming support in the General Assembly but not yet signed by the governor, is designed to make charter schools and the charter management organizations that oversee them more accountable and transparent.

No one seems to dispute that the state's new charter accountability provisions — including anti-nepotism rules, background checks, and other measures — are a positive step forward when it comes to making the publicly-funded but independently-run schools more accountable.  Continue>>>

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June 26, 2015 9:46 AM

BRIDGEPORT — If elected City Council members want information from Mayor Bill Finch’s administration, they can always do what John and Jane Q Public does — file a Freedom of Information request and get in line.

That can mean waiting weeks and sometimes months for the data.

That was one of the recommendations City Attorney Mark Anastasi made in a four-page response to renewed efforts by Councilman Enrique Torres, R-130, to try and force agency heads to be more responsive to individual council member requests.  Continue>>>

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June 25, 2015 9:14 AM

Tim Draper wants to make California county governments more transparent — and the venture capitalist said Wednesday that he will spend up to $500,000 to make it happen.

Draper’s nonprofit, Innovate Your State, will provide a year’s subscription to the first California counties that subscribe to OpenGov, a Redwood City startup that creates visualizations of financial data and provides analysis software for local governments. A breakdown of each department’s budget shows up on OpenGov, making it easier for the public to look in on financial priorities. Draper estimates that a year of OpenGov will cost between $10,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the county.  Continue>>>

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June 24, 2015 9:27 AM

Citing “budget pressure” identified at the 11th hour of the annual budget process by her Chief Financial Officer, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Tuesday (23) in a closed-door session with D.C. Council members repeated her request that police video be exempt from public access, the same plan the Council has rejected once after public outcry. The new scare tactic was reported late Tuesday in the Washington Post on-line, in Wednesday's print edition, and early in the day Tuesday in a Tweet from Washington City Paper's Loose Lips columnist Will Sommer.  Continue>>>

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June 23, 2015 9:35 AM

After 19 months at the helm of the National Institute of Justice, Greg Ridgeway quit last summer to join the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. Just days before he left, NIJ gave one of his new colleagues at Penn a $3 million grant.

Ridgeway, who recused himself from Penn’s funding request, said the timing of the grant award and his Ivy League hiring was coincidental. While he’s now associated with the Penn Injury Science Center, Ridgeway said, he doesn’t even know its assistant director Douglas Wiebe, the lead investigator for the NIJ-funded project.  Continue>>>

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June 19, 2015 9:32 AM

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is developing several tools to make information on natural gas drilling more accessible to the public. This includes a new fracking chemical disclosure site, a web portal for information on each natural gas well, and opportunities for the public to comment on proposed DEP policies.

DEP Secretary John Quigley says the effort is part of the Wolf administration’s commitment to “collaboration, transparency and integrity.” He spoke Wednesday night at the annual dinner of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council in Philadelphia.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:38 PM

AUGUSTA — Legislative leaders on both sides of the political aisle Tuesday defended a $6.7 billion state budget and tax bill crafted largely in secret negotiations between party leaders, saying they ran out of time to follow a more public process.

Changes to a budget bill that was previously approved on a 9-4 bipartisan vote of the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee came in the form of a series of amendments, including one that dramatically revamps the state's tax policy.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:07 PM

HELENA, Mont. - Directors at six state agencies say they'll be ready to record their meetings when new transparency laws requiring them to do so take effect this year.

Five agencies must make video or audio recordings of their meetings available online or on television within one working day beginning July 1. They include the Board of Public Education, Board of Investments, teachers' and public employees' retirement boards and the Board of Regents.

The Board of Pardons and Parole's deadline is in October under a different law that came with funding and no deadline to publish the records.  Continue>>>

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June 16, 2015 2:18 PM

Join Third Way and Democracy Journal on Friday, June 19th for a lunch discussion on government transparency and public trust.  The event will kick off with a keynote address on current efforts to use transparency to increase trust in government in the U.S. and then present the findings of an innovative taxpayer receipt experiment in the United Kingdom.  It will close with a discussion by leading academics and practitioners on opportunities to build trust in government and citizen engagement among American voters - and the hurdles that may stand in the way.  Continue>>>

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