RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative

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RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Marcus Louie 10/25/13 7:57 AM
Guys,

It's time to pull out your wish lists.  The Mayor's office is now accepting comments online for their upcoming Open Government Directive.  The comments are prompted by questions like, 'What government information should be more readily available online or more easily searched?' and 'What performance measures are necessary to determine the effectiveness of open government policies?' 

We have until November 29th to submit comments.

http://dcforms.dc.gov/webform/request-comments-district-columbias-transparency-and-open-government-initiative

Looking forward to seeing you guys on Tuesday.

Marcus
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Rebecca Williams 10/25/13 11:32 AM
I believe Traci, the DC Open Government Director, will be stopping by the next Code for DC meeting this Tuesday. So, it's a good meeting to make!


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Rebecca Williams 
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Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Dave Zvenyach 11/6/13 8:18 PM
I took the initiative to create a Github Repo: https://github.com/openlawdc/openDCdotgov
Let's make this happen using the collaborative tools at our disposal...
VDZ
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative greg.bloom 11/8/13 6:22 AM
This looks really interesting. And my conversation with Traci Hughes was encouraging. Two questions: 

First, I want to submit a comment about data inputs, and I'd like some help from you all in getting the right words for it. Broadly, the question is: how do we establish channels/processes through which non-governmental sources of data can be officially recognized as "public information." Specifically, I'm thinking in the context of 2-1-1 information: if a community-side initiative generates data about community-side social services, and we want this information to be included in DC's 2-1-1 system, which is government-operated... how can we make that happen? What does the government need to be able to accept non-government data as legit? (Is this already addressed somewhere? Or can you help with language here?)

Second: I'd like to share it with some folks who have not been involved in many if any conversations about 'open data,' but would probably have good ideas. But I won't be at next week's Code for DC meeting. Is it possible that this could be on the evening's agenda in a way that folks could break off and go deep? In that case, I could encourage folks to come and talk with some geeks about this? Alternatively, maybe there's an opportunity to organize some kind of brown bag lunch to discuss it with local folks who prob wouldn't come to an evening meeting. I could help with this if it were during the week of 11/18.

~greg
• gjb •
202.643.3648
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Josh Tauberer/GovTrack 11/8/13 6:34 AM
On 11/08/2013 09:22 AM, Greg Bloom wrote:
if a community-side initiative generates data about community-side social services, and we want this information to be included in DC's 2-1-1 system, which is government-operated... how can we make that happen? What does the government need to be able to accept non-government data as legit?

My experience is that this isn't a legal issue. More of a cultural/perception problem, that free data is seen as not good (inaccurate, risky, no one to blame), compared to all of the data that gov agencies purchase. Also, it costs time/money for gov agencies to ingest new data, so even free data isn't cost-less.

But on the first part, either start charging for the 2-1-1 data like a contractor would (I'm not even joking), or maybe we need a public campaign that shows that public community data is an asset and not a risk.

- Josh Tauberer (@JoshData)

http://razor.occams.info

Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative greg.bloom 11/8/13 7:08 AM
Interesting. 

Although if it's really a cultural issue in which there's a perception of (nonspecific) legal issues, then changing that perception is, in part, going to entail getting specific about legality. 

It's going to be a process one way or another... trying to figure out how to use this as an opportunity to start it.
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• gjb •
202.643.3648
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Charise Van Liew 11/8/13 11:00 AM
Why has the convo shifted from creating a community-owned tool that ingests 2-1-1 data to convincing the government to ingest community-generated data? 

Thanks in advance and apologies if I'm missing the obvious.

Charise



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Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative greg.bloom 11/8/13 11:59 AM
Charise - as of now, the government still seems to think it's committed to a gov-run 2-1-1 system. What that looks like is unclear. My tentative sense is that the best case scenario wouldn't be either-or; there would be a gov system and community-side systems with means to share data between them... But there seems to be a lot of fear uncertainty and doubt on all sides about this issue, especially within the gov, which can best be resolved through ongoing communication. So this could be a good opportunity (even though it's not quite about transparency per se).
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• gjb •
202.643.3648
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Matt Bailey 11/9/13 7:12 AM
+1 to using this as an opportunity to *start* conversations/processes in the government around thorny and complicated issues.  Language like "reduce the burden to.." is going to be roughly what we're looking for, I think.  Although maybe we should aim higher?
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Matt Bailey 11/9/13 7:20 AM
Meta-notes around this conversation:

- I just posted a meetup for a session close to the deadline that we can use to round up all the discussion here, on Github, and anywhere else it might take place and wrangle it into something cohesive for submission "officially" by Code for DC.  This will also be in partnership with DC Legal Hackers, a lovely group moderated by our own Rebecca Williams that does exactly what its name implies.  Here's the link to the meetup: http://www.meetup.com/Code-for-DC/events/150021112/

- There's been some frustrating latency confirming the venue, but we're also planning on having Traci Hughes, the Director of the DC Office of Open Government speak about the importance of this initiative in a more public space on 11/18, just ahead of our 11/20 discussion.  Hopefully we can use this as an opportunity to fold in ideas and concerns from a broader constituency, let alone just to drive more feedback directly to the city on the initiative generally.

-Github suggestion: can we move the discussion out of the markdown documents and into the Issues section, at least initially?  This would significantly lower the barrier to entry for non-technical users.

-I spoke with Code for DC member Peter Gehred, who is a Public Policy wonk, and asked him to keep an eye on this discussion as it evolves and help make sure it turns out actionable feedback.  ALSO, he's in the process of launching wikipolicy.co, and will be exploring ways to use this discussion and the Code for DC policy/legislative discussion generally as a seedbed for a much broader effort around publicly sourced public policy.

-Excelsior!

Matt
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative greg.bloom 11/13/13 6:18 PM
Feedback from leaders in the Fair Budget Coalition. (Hopefully they'll have someone participating in the conversation next week...) Note that a lot of this may need to be reframed into terms that describe the process by which the outcome they want can happen.

1) Open up the process of planning the Mayor's side of the budget. Have public hearings and meaningful opportunities for public input as the Mayor puts together his budget. 

2) Track where the money goes and how it is spent. The agencies are incredibly non-transparent. Does ANYONE know what the hell goes on in OSSE's budget? No. And DHS? After the Council allots the money, we need to be able to track what happens to it.

3) Tracking data on the programs we fund. We pour lots of money into various programs in education, human services, housing, health, etc. But the gov't doesn't usually track the programs to see if they're working. It would be mighty helpful to know the stats of how successful (or not successful)  the programs are that we spend public money on.

4) Needs assessments. I don't know if this counts as "open gov't" but we have major issues with the fact that when the Mayor makes his budget every year, it's based only on what the budget was the previous year, not at all based on what the need actually is. So tracking needs in the city would help us direct our money and our programs to where there is the most need.

5) Participatory budgeting. It's embarrassing that I know so little about this, but we should be finding more ways to open up the budget process to more meaningful participation.

6) Tracking and publishing which developers and corporations we give major tax breaks to and then tracking what they do with our tax breaks and if we're actually making that money back in sales/property taxes the way they argue we will.

7) Tracking and publishing the sale and loss of public property and affordable housing. With that:
       --Giving a certain amount of notice when land or public propoerty goes up for sale
       --Making better requirements for the WAY that notice is given
       --Greater weight given to community voices in the acquisition/sale of public property and affordable housing
       --Making standards around availibility of info for public viewing (like publishing info on website) and repercussions if not followed


Also of note, I heard this from one of the advocates on contract from the government. Dunno what to make of it, but may be good to note:

So the comments are not going to the open government office.  They are going to an office in EOM.  In order for the recommendations to be reviewed by the open gov staff, all responses should be forwarded.  And that is not a guarantee.  That’s why the rec:  To ensure that all comments provided by the community re: the open government initiative are forwarded to the open government office.





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• gjb •
202.643.3648
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Anders Pedersen 11/13/13 6:48 PM
Hi Greg, 

Thanks for sharing this. A few thoughts below:

On 13 November 2013 21:18, Greg Bloom <greg....@gmail.com> wrote:
Feedback from leaders in the Fair Budget Coalition. (Hopefully they'll have someone participating in the conversation next week...) Note that a lot of this may need to be reframed into terms that describe the process by which the outcome they want can happen.

1) Open up the process of planning the Mayor's side of the budget. Have public hearings and meaningful opportunities for public input as the Mayor puts together his budget. 

2) Track where the money goes and how it is spent. The agencies are incredibly non-transparent. Does ANYONE know what the hell goes on in OSSE's budget? No. And DHS? After the Council allots the money, we need to be able to track what happens to it.

For OSSE: 
I don't know on the budget side, as in appropriations for public schools, teachers salaries and janitors. What we *do* know is spending under OSSE for private contractors including charter schools:

One idea for progress would be to ask for *internal public transactions* to be published along side with private contractor payments.
 
Eg. pension payments from OSSE to DC teachers pension fund or from OSSE to Public School nr. 39

 
3) Tracking data on the programs we fund. We pour lots of money into various programs in education, human services, housing, health, etc. But the gov't doesn't usually track the programs to see if they're working. It would be mighty helpful to know the stats of how successful (or not successful)  the programs are that we spend public money on.

In government terms budget (as legislation and budget codes) will often be handled in different systems than spending (as in transactions handled by accountants).

For DC financials I have noticed at least (with target group in () ) :
- budget level data (the stuff all city wonks and politicians look at)
- purchase orders referencing service delivery (potential contractors look toward who are winning the bids)
- transactional spending (for the accountants)
- credit card payments (for the only white collar crime forensics accountant in the district + Luke over at the Washington Examiner)
 
These levels are not easy to math and therefore tracking from budget via spending to service delivery is a pretty hard nut to crack, but something we should certainly ask for.


4) Needs assessments. I don't know if this counts as "open gov't" but we have major issues with the fact that when the Mayor makes his budget every year, it's based only on what the budget was the previous year, not at all based on what the need actually is. So tracking needs in the city would help us direct our money and our programs to where there is the most need.

5) Participatory budgeting. It's embarrassing that I know so little about this, but we should be finding more ways to open up the budget process to more meaningful participation.

Di Blasio is apparently going in big on this, so maybe a place that a place to borrow some practical ideas.
 
6) Tracking and publishing which developers and corporations we give major tax breaks to and then tracking what they do with our tax breaks and if we're actually making that money back in sales/property taxes the way they argue we will.

Subsidyscope (pew trust) is tracking some state level tax breaks. Not sure DC is there.



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Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative greg.bloom 11/13/13 6:53 PM
Interesting, thanks Anders.

(To clarify: those bullets were copied verbatim from Janelle Treibitz, Fair Budget organizer... they weren't my words.)

Also re Participatory Budgeting: that's something already underway for a few years in Chicago. Another great example of community-generated data that (compared with gov-generated data) may be even more transformative for civics in the long-run.
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Sandra Moscoso 11/14/13 11:26 AM

A general thought on Code for DC and our role vis a vis DC's open gov is that anytime the city kicks off an initiative (or task force... say dept parks & rec efficiency or DCPS boundary processes, for example), if there is a data component that should be evaluated/taken into account (and there always is), Code for DC can serve as an impartial voice/resource.   (does that sound about right, Matt?)

Inactive hide details for Matt Bailey ---11/09/2013 10:20:23 AM---Meta-notes around this conversation: - I just posted a meetupMatt Bailey ---11/09/2013 10:20:23 AM---Meta-notes around this conversation: - I just posted a meetup for a session close to the deadline th

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Date: 11/09/2013 10:20 AM
Subject: Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative
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Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Matt Bailey 11/15/13 6:58 AM
Yeah! Proactive over reactive approach FTW.

A related suggestion: do we basically want to suggest that DC comply with the requirements that Executive branch Agencies are newly required to under Project Open Data?  This is certainly not a comprehensive approach to policy, but it outlines a few best practices that will help make the data more useful and discoverable:

A couple of highlights:
1) must host a file at dc.gov/data.json that describes all datasets the city owns (including ones that cannot be made public) according to a defined schema.
2) create a human-readable version of the same information at dc.gov/data
Re: RFC on District's Transparency and Open Government Initiative Peter Gehred 11/15/13 12:45 PM
Thanks for the intro Matt.

So far, a lot of good resources and thoughts have already been surfaced. Although I'm sure plenty of you are aware of these resources already, just want to bring up a couple more possible sources to draw on:
Sunlight's Open Data guidelines which looks to have a number of helpful ideas, and in which our own Josh Tauberer gets quoted and cited.
The Project on Open Government's Best Practices which helpfully includes some key criteria as well as examples of different approaches from Federal agencies.

Anyway, there is already a wealth of Open Gov experience among everyone here, so looking forward to learning from everyone.

And as Matt metioned, I'm also working on a start-up to create an open source platform for good policy ideas. The more help, the merrier: just ping me. You can sign up for the beta test at wikipolicy.co.