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 10, 2016 1:30 PM

The fourth annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet, titled "Forty Years, Freedom of Information: The Fight Continues," will celebrate the forty-year anniversary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and will feature White House Advisor Cori Zarek as guest speaker.

The banquet, hosted by the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism — IowaWatch with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and Iowa Newspaper Foundation, will follow a day of raising awareness about the importance of an open government and an unrestricted press to our democracy. Continue...

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August 10, 2016 1:10 PM

An advocacy group for government transparency on Tuesday sued the University of Washington Board of Regents, contending the board conducted a “sham public process” and violated the state’s open-meetings law last October by secretly picking the university’s president.

In its lawsuit, the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) cited various email exchanges among university officials, selection-committee members and others that indicate the regents had secretly selected Ana Mari Cauce before taking a public vote. Continue...

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August 9, 2016 3:56 PM

Earlier this year, the city of Los Angeles launched GeoHub, an ambitious map-based portal designed to improve communication across city departments, spur innovation, and increase community engagement. GeoHub, powered by Esri’s enterprise location engine, connects citywide location-based data to plan for and support city operations efficiently across diverse residents. The GeoHub’s repository supports interactive maps that can be created and modified in real-time to engage Angelenos and expedite cross-departmental decision making.

This is quite an accomplishment for a city that launched its first Open Data Portal less than two years ago. Under Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chief Data Officer (CDO) Lilian Coral, L.A. has become a world leader in open data innovation. Continue...

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August 9, 2016 3:28 PM

State legislators are accusing the University of Virginia of dodging a request for records related to its $2.3 billion Strategic Investment Fund.

A letter signed by 11 lawmakers claims the university’s records dump last week included many omissions, such as responses by UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan. Continue...

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August 9, 2016 3:14 PM

The past year has seen no shortage of political scandals involving state officials. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted on 12 felony counts connected to using his office for personal gain. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted on corruption charges. Five Pennsylvania state representatives were convicted on bribery, corruption, extortion and conflict-of-interest charges. And Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox pleaded guilty to wire fraud, bribery and filing a false tax return.

Scandals like these are troubling in both their substance and frequency and have contributed to historically low levels of trust in government. Corruption cases involving public officials leave citizens with the distinct impression that their voices matter less than those of the wealthy. Continue...

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August 8, 2016 1:18 PM

In this year’s election cycle, the restless, anti-establishment anger is palpable, and shared by voters on the left who felt the Bern and on the right who love the Donald. Both are animated by a conviction that the moneyed class and corporations have hijacked our democracy. Emerging from their conventions, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will vie to win over these disaffected voters. Right now, both candidates are missing a potent opportunity to publicly recognize that it is not only money producing outsized influence in our democratic system. It is data.

Data plays a crucial role in our democracy by revealing how it works—who votes, who gives, who spends on what—and too much of it is inaccessible, incomplete, or too messy to understand without analytics experts. Data is not making our democracy less rigged in favor of incumbency and wealth. It reinforces this imbalance. Continue...

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August 8, 2016 1:10 PM

Oregon's open records law should be updated to include deadlines, a strongly worded commitment to government openness and better tracking of the many exemptions that allow public agencies to keep some records confidential, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Friday.

To that end, she submitted proposed legislation intended to accomplish all three of those changes. Continue...

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August 8, 2016 12:58 PM

Thanks to the Texas Supreme Court, McAllen taxpayers cannot find out how much their city paid Enrique Iglesias to belt out his Latin pop lyrics at a holiday parade.

And Houston cannot release, among other information, how many driver permits it has issued to ride-hailing giant Uber.

A Kaufman County school district’s food service deal? Much of that is now secret, as are details of a Texas Department of Insurance contract for interpretation services. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 3:58 PM

Reclaim The Records has done it again. We are proud to announce that our Freedom of Information lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York, fighting for the right to a first-ever public copy of the New York City marriage index, has been successful!

The New York City Clerk's Office announced their intention to settle with us on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, less than twenty-four hours before they were due to face us in court on Wednesday, July 6. A draft version of the stipulation and settlement papers were agreed to yesterday, Thursday, August 4, with two small items awaiting final sign-off, and we expect the final papers to be signed in the next week. The City has already started duplicating the microfilms for us, and our attorney has given us the all clear to finally tell people the good news. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 2:23 PM

Citizens aren’t being allowed to speak up at City Commission meetings.

At least not until officials review alternatives to the public comment period, or citizen communication, which allows citizens to speak before commissioners for up to two minutes. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 12:28 PM

A judge in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island began hearings Wednesday in a lawsuit against the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, spurred by a local journalist.

Providence-based writer Phil Eil, says he’s fought for more than five years to obtain access to thousands of pages of public evidence from a pill-mill trial, about which he plans to write a book. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 10:20 AM

The FBI—along with every other government agency—creates and obtains records as it carries out its day to day operations. In the Bureau, these records generally include investigative files, personnel files, and policy guides. A majority of these documents are indexed in our Central Records System (CRS)—an electronic index that allows Bureau personnel to query requested information. While the CRS contains most of the FBI's records, some of our earliest records were not indexed, and some records have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration. Continue...

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