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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August 4, 2016 2:19 PM

When an orthodontist asked the reporter if he wanted a good story idea, the reporter, of course, said "yes."

Jeff Donn, a national writer with The Associated Press and 2012 Pulitzer finalist, was doubtful, at first, about that tip from his son's orthodontist: There's no solid evidence that flossing actually works. Continue...

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August 4, 2016 1:52 PM

We’re busting out of the Beltway. This year, Sunlight is focusing TransparencyCamp, our annual unconference, exclusively on state and local issues. Please join us and hundreds of your friends and colleagues from across the country on Oct. 14–15, when we head to Cleveland and convene our communities in the city’s stunning downtown public library.

Why Cleveland? We wanted to host this TransparencyCamp in a town with strong grassroots organizers and clear problems its community is trying to solve. We looked across the United States, talking to our friends and allies. We looked for a place where people are dedicated to open government and innovation and the possibilities they offer. We wanted to connect with an amazing library system, close to multiple schools and universities. Continue...

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August 3, 2016 11:09 AM

Wisconsin’s third branch of government is critical to open government. This year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear three cases involving Wisconsin’s open records law, and could make important decisions involving access to the courts.

The court’s docket starts with a case about whether videos of law enforcement training sessions must be released to the public. The videos were requested from then-Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin during the race for attorney general, which Schimel later won. Continue...

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August 3, 2016 10:48 AM

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is conducting a survey of journalists and news organizations on a "Release to One, Release to All" policy under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Generally, the policy calls for records released in response to a FOIA request to be simultaneously posted online for public viewing. A handful of federal agencies recently finished a pilot program, and the federal government is now seeking to roll out the policy across the executive branch. Continue...

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August 3, 2016 10:41 AM

Michigan’s primary elections, taking place today, may offer few competitive races. But one of them has offered a look at an unusual type of legal action—one in which a government entity sues a local media outlet in response to a public-records request.

These cases aren’t unprecedented. Often, they arise when a local government entity says it fears being sued after responding to a records request, and decides to go on offense. But they are, fortunately, uncommon, in part because courts generally have tended to take a dim view of the legal maneuver—which is what happened here. Continue...

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August 1, 2016 11:54 AM

The former general counsel for the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada must stop destroying digital evidence related to a fraud complaint, a federal judge ordered Wednesday.

     Court findings indicate Las Vegas-based tech firm Switch in June became aware defendant attorney Carolyn "Lina" Tanner published online and social media posts under the pseudonyms DixieRaeSparx, #DixieRaeSparx or @DixieRaeSparx. Continue...

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August 1, 2016 11:37 AM

Those of us who keep a close eye on Texas' evolving open government laws watch the state Legislature for signs of change. We also look at how local and state government agencies carry out these laws to see if they are working.

But we must focus on the courts, too. Continue...

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August 1, 2016 11:06 AM

Asking by telephone and email for agencies’ reports on transparency, as part of a test of District of Columbia agencies’ public service, the D.C. Auditor found worse knowledge and courtesy than in a raft of other tests (such as calling to learn about a benefit or have a pothole patched).

The Auditor’s June 27 report called the results ”not encouraging.” Continue...

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July 29, 2016 10:23 AM

A year after updating its open data policy, New York City is pushing ahead with plans to automatically refresh more of its data sets and tie public records requests to the open data process — moves hailed by open government advocates, even as some worry about the data’s quality.

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council earlier this month, a year after his “Open Data for All” initiative launched, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications reported it entered 156 new data sets on the city’s online portal over the last year, and noted that more than 200 of the roughly 1,500 data sets included on the site are now configured to update automatically. Continue...

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July 29, 2016 10:10 AM

This month, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act turned 50. But the passage of time has not slowed the pace of threads toward it and, transitively, toward the American public.

A mere 10 days after the FOIA’s semicentennial, a federal appeals court in a close ruling reversed 20-year-old precedent allowing the release of police booking photos. The Sixth Circuit court held that such photos are “embarrassing and humiliating” and thus meet the standard of privacy-protected information that the FOIA exempts. Continue...

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July 29, 2016 9:46 AM

One of the great promises of open government this decade has been that it can serve as a catalyst for a new civic-centered “innovation ecosystem.” This ecosystem, replete with successful startups and data-driven advancements in government operations, could not only enhance transparency, but spur replication and generate economic value for cities. In 2013, McKinsey and Company concluded that open data, in all its forms, had the potential to contribute $3 trillion a year of value across the global economy. This and other reports set off a wave of excitement, encouraging The Economist to declare that “the open data movement has finally come of age.”

Yet in the nearly three years since, progress at the local level has been incremental. Cities like Chicago have achieved many operational data-driven advancements, yet the process of replication has been slower than many in 2013 may have hoped. Consider that for almost a year now, Chicago’s food inspection program has been guided by predictive analytics. Continue...

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July 29, 2016 9:40 AM

On July 28, 2016, the State Department released the 2016 Fiscal Transparency Report pursuant to section 7031(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2016 (Div. K, P.L.114-113) (“the Act”). The report found that 76 of 140 governments reviewed by the Department met minimum requirements of fiscal transparency. Eight governments found not to meet minimum requirements made significant progress toward meeting minimum requirements. The Department continued to update and strengthen the minimum requirements, as required by law.

The Department evaluated the public availability, substantial completeness, and reliability of budget documents, as well as the transparency of processes for awarding government contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction. Continue...

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