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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October 19, 2011 4:27 PM

From opensource.com:

Where do you start to standardize legislative information for all 50 United States? Blazing an open data trail for one state government isn't easy, so shifting 50 must be nearly impossible. Or is it? The Open State Project is making progress towards the impossible—and closing in on the goal.

[...]

James Turk is a developer and open source coordinator for Sunlight Labs. Using an open source approach, Turk is over halfway to completing the impossible—scraping and standardizing legislative information from all 50 states.. And the best part is that states are seeing the value in open data and making changes where they have an impact—directly at the source. Turk has a great story about how Open States is a key influencer for a more open government.

October 19, 2011 4:15 PM

October 19, 2011

From KUT News:

Open government advocates have been hounding the city for years over its not so easy to access reservoirs of public data – everything from public safety information to 3-1-1 calls to public transit usage. New data processing and visualization tools make examining the information easier, which can help to increase government transparency.

Austin was selected last week as a partner city with Code for America, a non-profit organization that connects developers with people who deliver city services. Code for America receives funding from the Knight Foundation and Microsoft among many others.

October 19, 2011 10:26 AM

October 19, 2011

From New York Post:

A lawsuit by a good-government group seeking the names and annual pensions of New York City Police Pension Fund retirees was quashed by a panel of three Appellate Division judges yesterday, setting up a battle in the state’s highest court.

“If allowed to stand, this decision will be a massive blow to open government and transparency in New York,” said Timothy Hoefer, director of the Albany-based Empire Center.

October 18, 2011 2:42 PM

October 18, 2011

from O'Reilly Radar:

There's a growing international movement afoot worldwide to open up government data and make something useful with it. Civic apps based upon open data are emerging that genuinely serve citizens in a beneficial ways that officials may have not been able to deliver, particularly without significant time or increased expense

For every civic app, however, there's a backstory that often involves a broad number of stakeholders. Governments have to commit to open up themselves but will in many cases need external expertise or even funding to do so. Citizens, industry and developers have to use the data, demonstrating that there's not only demand but skill outside of government to put open data to work in the service of accountability, citizen utility and economic opportunity. Galvanizing the co-creation of civic services, policies or apps isn't easy but the potential of the civic surplus attracted the attention of governments around the world

October 18, 2011 12:03 PM

October 18, 2011

From HeraldNet:

The public could know soon who signed petitions to put the question of expanded rights for same-sex couples up for a [Washington] statewide vote in 2009.

[Monday], a federal judge ruled the names of the 138,000 people who signed petitions for Referendum 71 can be disclosed to the public.

October 14, 2011 5:33 PM

A few items selected from many of interest recently.

Federal Chief Information Officer pay report

In this report, FierceGovernmentIT looked at base pay for federal CIOs in 2010. The average salary among the 16 CIOs in this report was $166,982. Four CIOs tied for the highest salary in 2010, raking in $179,700. Click through the site's slideshow or use the index to see the salaries of CIOs at agencies like the EPA and NASA.

All salary data was gathered from Data Universe, a database of public information collected and made searchable by Asbury Park Press. According to Paul D'Ambrosio, investigations editor at APP, the publication obtains all Data Universe information through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Visit FierceGovernmentIT for the rest.

Judge blocks release of government documents over Kagan's role in health care law

A federal judge on Friday turned aside a request the Justice Department turn over more documents related to the role Justice Elena Kagan played in appeals over the sweeping health care law, while she was a top Obama administration official.

Two conservative groups –Judicial Watch and Media Research Center– had separately sued, calling "inadequate" the documentation earlier released by the government, following a Freedom of Information Act request.

Visit CNN PoliticalTicker for the rest.

Dodd-Frank Meeting Logs

Every day, lobbyists and executives from Wall Street firms, big banks, insurance companies and others are meeting with financial regulators. They are pressing their case on how the federal financial agencies implement the massive Dodd-Frank financial law, which required more than 240 rulemakings. In the spirit of transparency, the major agencies have been posting records of their meetings with these outside representatives. However, until now it was necessary to visit each agency's website to obtain this information, which is reported at different time intervals and in varying formats. With the Dodd-Frank meeting log tracker, now it is possible to find all the meetings in one place.

Visit Sunlight Foundation for the rest.

U.S. Copyright Czar Cozied Up to Content Industry, E-Mails Show

Top-ranking Obama administration officials, including the U.S. copyright czar, played an active role in secret negotiations between Hollywood, the recording industry and ISPs to disrupt internet access for users suspected of violating copyright law, according to internal White House e-mails.

The e-mails, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, (.pdf) show the administration’s cozy relationship with Hollywood and the music industry’s lobbying arms and its early support for the copyright-violation crackdown system publicly announced in July.

Visit Wired for the rest.

Former Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer received $1 million in final compensation, records show

Former Florida coach Urban Meyerreceived a $1 million payment from the school's University Athletic Association after his tenure ended.

Documentation provided to the Orlando Sentinel in response to a Freedom of Information request shows that on April 22 the UAA cut a check for the amount of Meyer's retention bonus in his football contract.

Visit Orlando Sentinel for the rest.

October 13, 2011 12:10 PM

Oct. 13, 2011

From Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act is heading to the state Supreme Court in what will likely be a legal battle over whether prosecutors can pursue misdemeanor criminal charges for violations of the broadly-worded law.

The case centers around Circuit Judge James Cox's ruling declaring parts of the state’s FOIA unconstitutional. Cox wrote in his decision that the definition of “meeting” and the criminal penalties for violations contained in the law are "unconstitutionally vague."

Read the full article at the RCFP website

October 11, 2011 6:10 PM

Oct. 11, 2011

From First Amendment Coalition:

The First Amendment Coalition, with the aid of a NFOIC grant, has announced their new Open-Gov app for smartphones running the Android OS.

The app was completed on July 15, 2011, and is now available for free download in the Android market through this link. The app will be debuting in the Amazon App store soon.

October 10, 2011 10:37 PM

 

Oct. 10, 2011

The effort to convince the Administration to reverse its decision to bar public access to a health information database got support from leading university researchers and mentioned in the New York Times. 

The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) has been leading an effort, supported by the NFOIC and leading journalism organizations to protest the decision, which was in response to a Kansas City Star news story.  Last week, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking opposition member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, protesting the move.  And now, 23 leading health care researchers from universities around the country sent a strongly-worded letter to Sebelius, saying they condemned the action “in the strongest possible terms.”

The National Practitioner Data Bank, which records malpractice awards and other health quality indices, is “an indispensable resource for academic researchers,” the letter said. 

We posted a link last week to the health care journalists association’s blog on the issue.  The New York Times account, written since that blog but before the university researchers joined the fray, can be found at this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/16/health/16doctor.html.

-- by Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director, NFOIC

October 10, 2011 2:17 PM

Oct. 10, 2011

From Social Media in the Public Sector:

Assistant Professor Ines Mergel, of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, has compiled a list of social media policies of U.S. federal government agencies and departments that are publicly available on the web.

The page also includes legislation, reports, memos and other types of mandates around the use of social media in government, such President Obama’s 2009 Transparency and Open Government, OBM’s Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies, or the CIO Council’s Guidelines for Secure Use of Social Media by Federal Departments and Agencies.

October 7, 2011 7:28 PM

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee is backing a demand by the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), the National Freedom Of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and other groups that a Health and Human Services agency re-think and reverse its decision to remove a useful health-information database in a wrong-headed, punitive overreaction to a Kansas City Star report.

The NFOIC has been among groups supporting the effort, led by the AHCJ, protesting the decision by the Health Resources and Services Administration to stop allowing public access to a database that records malpractice payouts, hospital discipline and regulatory sanctions against doctors and other health care professionals.

The National Practitioner Database was removed by the agency, after threatening a Kansas City Star reporter whose report contained purportedly “confidential” information from the database.

Linked below is the health journalists group’s blog reporting that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a sharply-worded letter to the Administration, rebuking its decision and insisting that public information belongs to the public.  The NFOIC is gratified for the senator’s support and hopeful this decision will be reversed.

The AHCJ report can be found at this link:

http://www.healthjournalism.org/blog/2011/10/grassley-criticizes-federal-agency-over-removal-of-doctor-discipline-data/http://www.healthjournalism.org/blog/2011/10/grassley-criticizes-federal-agency-over-removal-of-doctor-discipline-data/

 

-- By Dan Claxton, NFOIC Graduate Research Assistant

October 7, 2011 5:40 PM

A few items selected from many of interest recently.

Freedom of Information Bill tabled in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas -- The proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in The Bahamas has wide restrictions regarding what type of information is actually considered free.
The FOIA legislation, tabled in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, considers information to be anything contained in maps, plans, graphs, drawings, photographs, and on any other device on which data can be recorded.

Visit the Nassau Guardian for the rest.

2011 FOI awards recognize Fairfax parent, The Roanoke Times, and two state legislator

Virginia Coalition for Open Government announces this year's winners for their contributions towards open government in Virginia: Jill Hill, The Roanoke Times and Dels. Jim LeMunyon and Mark Keam.

Visit Virginia Coalition for Open Government for the rest.

Attorney to appeal Fort Smith FOI ruling

A Fort Smith lawyer said Wednesday he plans to appeal a Sebastian County circuit judge’s ruling that declared portions of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act unconstitutional.
Joey McCutchen said he wants Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to participate in the appeal. McDaniel said through a spokesman that he did not immediately know whether his office would get involved.

Visit The Times Record for the rest.

How Open Government is Changing New York City

New York City Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne’s recent presentation gives an overview of the city’s open government work and can be seen here.

Her first task in the role was the development of a “Road Map for the Digital City,” a comprehensive plan to realize New York City’s digital potential through enhanced Access, Open Government, Engagement, and Industry.

Visit govfresh and Strata Conference for the rest.

Panel says government obstructing access to science data

With anecdotes of bureaucratically tangled interview requests, scripted and chaperoned sources, stalled federal Freedom of Information Act responses and politicized press offices, a panel of health and science journalists speaking at the National Press Club Monday said that many of the government agencies they rely on have failed to live up to the Obama administration's sweeping transparency promises.

The health, environment and energy reporters laid much of the blame for the lack of progress on a “disturbing” trend toward top-down, politically-motivated control of what certain agencies make accessible to the media that has continued since President Obama took office.

Visit The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for the rest.

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