California’s Open Data Portal Goes Open Source for the Apps

California’s Government Operations Agency relaunched its open data portal as open source Thursday, so civil coders and state departments might sustainably innovate on the new platform.

The state started piloting portals with greengov.data.ca.gov and a coinciding codeathon in October, out of which emerged 14 open source applications posted on the online project hosting site GitHub.

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California Aware: In San Francisco, another sunshine-reform effort

A group of open-government activists is working to get a CalAware-endorsed measure strengthening San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance onto a future citywide ballot.

CalAware’s general counsel, Terry Francke, drafted the original language in the ordinance, which the city Board of Supervisors watered down and then passed in 1993, and voters approved a package of reforms to the law in November 1999.

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Journalism group seeks release of license-plate data in California

The Society of Professional Journalists and a host of other public-interest and media groups have weighed in on a high-profile public-records case now being considered by the California Supreme Court.

The lawsuit, appealed to the state high court by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was rejected by a state appeals court last year.

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Editorial: Another test for public access to police records in California

Legislation that would grant the public access to records of police misconduct and use of force faces its next test Monday in a state Senate committee.

Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 1286 is our favorite open-government bill in Sacramento this year, the one we endorsed during Sunshine Week because it would shed light on instances of police misconduct that are generally concealed from public view.

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Editorial: California special interests seek to limit right to know

Legislators give lip service to the public’s right to know about government operations. But too often, for the right special interest, they will limit access to information.

Right now, two bills addressing this tendency are pending, one involving an entrenched special interest, the other a shiny new one.

One should pass. The other, not so much. Continue…

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Uncovering information about police misconduct might soon get easier in California

California has some of the strictest laws in the U.S. against publicly releasing information about officer discipline.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) says recent high-profile clashes between police departments and the communities they serve show that now is the time to change the rules. Leno has introduced SB 1286, which would unravel some of the protections against releasing officer information. His push for transparency is generally supported by police reform advocates as a way to improve police-community relations.

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The debate in California over how owners can use LLCs to obscure their identities

Delaware and Nevada aren't the only states where it's possible to set up a company without saying who owns it.

In California, too, owners can set up a limited liability company, or LLC, without telling state officials who's behind the curtain.

That anonymity has come under close scrutiny since the release this week of the so-called Panama Papers, which revealed that dozens of global politicians hid assets in offshore shell companies set up by a Panamanian law firm.

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California’s Public Records Act intended to ensure openness, not provide excuses

Is it legitimate for a public institution to stall public record act requests in the heat of ongoing media coverage of a controversy?

I suspect plenty of crisis management consultants would say absolutely yes. Yet in California we have a Public Records Act intended to protect the public interest and ensure transparency.

The spirit of that act means the answer should be a resounding “No.” Continue…

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California Attorney General backs bill to improve disclosures on police shootings

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris wants to require police agencies to file detailed reports about officer-involved shootings to her office electronically, so they can be quickly and easily posted on a state website for public viewing.

Despite the heated national debate over police use of force, no reliable database tracks all police shootings in California, making it difficult for researchers to definitively answer some fundamental questions, including whether minorities are shot at disproportionately higher rates and which departments pull the trigger most often.

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