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Transparency: how do I do it?


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Slides from a presentation on "Transparency" to William and Mary in DC - Institute on American Politics

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Transparency: how do I do it?

  1. 1. Emily Shaw, Senior Analyst @emilydshaw Transparency: How do I do it?
  2. 2. • What is transparency? • What aspects of government can be made transparent? • How can you get information about your governments? Opening Questions:
  3. 3. Transparency Laws See it as it happens: • Open Meetings Laws • Open Data Laws • Regularly disclosed public records Ask for it later: • Freedom of Information Act (and state FOIAs)
  4. 4. Freedom of Information Act
  5. 5. We’re celebrating 50 years of FOIA this year! How can you participate? • Make a request through • Find out about what’s available (and not) in your state or city by checking the Open Government Guide at • Keep an eye on attacks on your right to know at! • Make a request and find your community of muckrackers & busybodies through MuckRock or FOIA Machine • Follow #50DaysofFOIA on Twitter to hear great stories made possible by FOIA
  6. 6. Open Meetings Laws • “Government In the Sunshine” law creates a right to access executive agency meetings • This is under attack right now – some FCC commissioners want more private meetings. There is a hearing on 5/24. Follow along and weigh in here! • Congress has created its own rules for generally providing access to sessions and committee meetings. • States each have their own open meetings law – you can also find those in RCFP’s Open Government Guide.
  7. 7. Local FOIA and accountability • Journalists have FOIAed for—and found—prejudiced emails sent by local officials, leading to the firing of problematic public employees and other reforms. • Recent examples of this occurring include prison guards in Camden, NJ, a top official with the Los Angeles Sherriff’s department, and a police officer in Baton Rouge, LA.
  8. 8. Local FOIA and accountability • FOIA for police automatic license plate readers (ALPR) showed patterns of police surveillance of neighborhoods
  9. 9. Local FOIA and Accountability • Check this out yourself! Go to Oakland’s RecordTrac to see public records requests in action.
  10. 10. Regularly disclosed public records • Court records: PACER for Federal cases, state court records sites at NCSC • Congressional Record • Statistical data from the US Census and other agencies
  11. 11. Open Data laws • Laws which require the proactive publication of certain kinds of data online, in machine readable format
  12. 12. What can you do with open data?
  13. 13. What information about government do you feel like you’re missing? Open Data/FOIA need you. Advocate for the release of information! Ask yourself: • What are the possibilities for political change if you had it? • What are the potential downsides to making that information available? • What are the things that would need to happen in order for this information to have a positive effect on the government & its community?