FOI Advocate News Blog

Syndicate content

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/.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

November 20, 2014 11:02 AM

In our continued fight for greater openness and transparency in government, we found the following items worthy of comment.

A public debate

Hampton Councilman Donnie Tuck deserves citizens' thanks for raising questions about the city's participation in a data-sharing program operated by area law enforcement.

Last year, several Hampton Roads communities entered into an agreement by which local police agencies agree to share telephone data collected from criminal suspects. Since it came to light, the public has expressed concern by the absence of details about of this domestic surveillance operation. Continue>>>
======
 

November 20, 2014 10:59 AM

For much of her career in government service, Miriam Nisbet has been on the cutting edge of the intersection of digital technology and the Freedom of Information Act.

But more than 35 years after she began government service in 1978, Nisbet will leave her post as the government's top FOIA ombudsman at the end of November to take a break and pursue a career in the private sector.

Nisbet has spent the last five years as the director of National Archives and Records Administration's office of government information services. Continue>>>

======

November 20, 2014 10:55 AM

The Senate Judiciary Committee released an amended version of a bill that would overhaul the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and force government agencies to be more transparent.

The legislation, which has bipartisan support and is backed by open government advocates, is co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senator John Cornyn, the ranking Republican on the committee.

The bill, dubbed the "FOIA Improvement Act of 2014," along with a "manager's amendment" (a bill that contains individual amendments from a majority or minority sponsor of a piece of legislation) unveiled today will be voted on Thursday. It will still need to pass the House, which has indicated it supports the legislation, before it is sent to President Barack Obama and signed into law. Continue>>>
======
 

November 20, 2014 10:51 AM

Ever since Illinois rewrote and bolstered its Freedom of Information Act in 2010, government officials of all stripes have done their best to chip away at it. Such is the case with a bill vetoed this year by Gov. Pat Quinn.

As lawmakers gather in Springfield this week for the annual fall veto session, Better Government Association President Andy Shaw says this is one veto that should be left alone.

Shaw writes: Continue>>>
=======

November 20, 2014 10:47 AM

Launched in 2009, Data.gov was one of the Obama administration's flagship efforts to produce a more open government. But though the site is full of raw data, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker suggests it's not nearly as useful as it could be.

Data.gov was supposed to hold heaps of data created by the federal government as it goes about its day-to-day business, boosting government transparency. And it's worked in some cases. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data stored on the site has given birth to scores of weather apps and countless meteorologists' careers, for example.

But in a visit to the D.C. start-up hub 1776 on Monday, Pritzker said that one of the surprises of becoming secretary of commerce last year was finding that the department didn't have all that much to show for the great heaps of data it had shoveled onto the site. Continue>>>
======
 

November 20, 2014 10:43 AM

The Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government today named Topeka media law attorney Michael L. Merriam as recipient of the Coalition’s “Above and Beyond Award” for Merriam’s career-long contributions to promoting and defending open government.

The award will be presented at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the auditorium on the first floor of the Statehouse.

Ron Keefover, Coalition president, said the Sunshine Coalition Board of Directors voted unanimously to bestow the 2014 award to Merriam based on his 35-plus years of innumerable presentations, consultations, lobbying, and other outreach efforts designed to open government records and meetings, many of which were done at no charge on behalf members of the Coalition and media outlets that had been denied access to government in Kansas. Continue>>>
======

November 19, 2014 1:40 PM

From President Obama’s first day in office, he has established himself as the first open data president. On day one, he issued a memorandum to create an “unprecedented level of openness in government” and affirmed that information collected and used by the federal government is a national asset. In the nearly six years Obama has been in office, he has taken a series of executive actions to further the ideal of open government through data, and there is still much to be done. With the presidential election season just around the corner, it remains to be seen if the progress made over the past few years will continue in future administrations, or if President Obama will be the last open data president.

President Obama’s initial memorandum served as the framework for the Administration’s Open Government Directive launched in December 2009, which requires federal agencies to adhere to three main tenets: publish government information online, improve the quality of government information, and create and institutionalize a culture of open government. The directive established specific goals and milestones for making high-quality government data accessible to the public. For example, in the first 45 days after the directive was created, agencies were required to identify and publish three previously unavailable, high-value data sets via Data.gov, which was launched in May 2009 by the Federal Chief Information Officer. Importantly, many of the requirements of the directive are ongoing processes, such as a requirement for agencies to update and publish an Open Government Plan every two years, ensuring that the commitment to open data becomes ingrained in government agency culture.

Recognizing that simply publishing government data online was not sufficient for making the data valuable, President Obama issued an executive order in May 2013 which required government data to be published in an open and machine readable format by default. Publishing machine readable data not only helps government agencies fulfill their Open Government Directive requirements more completely, but it also allows the data to be more easily searched and analyzed by the public. With open license to use and reuse this data, the range of organizations that can access, analyze, share, and derive value from this data broadens dramatically. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released its Open Data Policy in conjunction with this executive order to establish good data management practices throughout the data lifecycle, such as enhancing information safeguards and clarifying information management responsibilities. Continue>>>
======

November 19, 2014 1:36 PM

Controversial professor Steven Salaita, whose job offer at the University of Illinois was rescinded after he made anti-Israel comments on social media, filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the university has violated the state's open records law.

The lawsuit, filed in Champaign County court, contends the university failed to comply with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act by refusing to produce documents that Salaita's attorneys requested. State law requires government bodies, including public universities, to disclose records related to decisions, policies and other government activity upon request.

Salaita had been offered a tenured position at U. of I., but it was rescinded in August, weeks before he was to start, after he wrote hundreds of anti-Israel tweets during the summer, some of which included profane and inflammatory language. The decision not to hire Salaita was met with backlash from faculty across the country who argued that Salaita was punished for his controversial views. Continue>>>

======

November 19, 2014 1:33 PM

Bad ideas, unlike fine wine, don’t get better with age.

And that’s especially true of HB 3796, a bill that would weaken FOIA, the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

It was a bad idea when it breezed through the Illinois House and Senate in May with little explanation or debate. Continue>>>
======

November 19, 2014 1:29 PM

Floridians are blessed with the most expansive open government laws in the nation. While the state's Sunshine Law ensures the public's right of access to most governmental meetings and records, those official entities can encounter difficulties on several fronts.

Slow responses to public records requests elicit sharp criticism for stonewalling. No response to those entreaties can spark lawsuits that can prove costly to government programs and taxpayers.

On another Sunshine issue, meetings deemed to be public must be noticed and open. Official entities cannot misunderstand the rules on open governance, another pitfall that can void proceedings and decisions. Continue>>>

November 19, 2014 1:26 PM

An Open Government Symposium this Friday in Valdosta will be hosted by the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners.
Valdosta Daily Times Editor Jim Zachary, director of the Transparency Project of Georgia, will be joined by Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, for the open government training event.
Lowndes County leaders approached Zachary and Manheimer about bringing the symposium to Valdosta after they attended the first in a statewide series of open government training sessions held in Macon at the Center for Collaborative Journalism Oct. 17. Continue>>>
======

November 19, 2014 1:22 PM

The other day, a local woman approached a Gazette editor and regaled him with tales of her experience trying to get information from a local government.

She complained that her request for information wasn't honored in a timely manner, that government officials kept pushing back the date of when they said the information would be available, and then threatened her if she continued to badger them.

The state's Freedom of Information Law, commonly known as FOIL, turned 40 years old this year. Continue>>>

======

Syndicate content