Archive for the ‘Sunshine Resources’ Category

Best consumer healthcare sites

August 25, 2009

The Medical Library Association lists its top ten consumer healthcares sites as well as a complete guide to utilizing the web for health information.

Article:

OpenSecrets.org: follow the money

May 25, 2009

This is a great website for looking at which industries contribute the most to congress people, which congress people get money for what sources and the like.

http://www.opensecrets.org

Bad sunshine laws in five midwestern states

May 17, 2009

“According to a study released Wednesday by the Citizen Advocacy Center in celebration of Sunshine Week (March 15-21), open government laws in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota have systemic barriers that chill public participation and access to government, which weakens our democratic system designed to be by, for and of the people. 

The Center analyzed each state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts and found striking similarities between all states, including:

  • Open government laws are sporadically enforced, which means public bodies are more likely to be unresponsive to records requests and employ exemptions to keep meetings closed.
  • No state surveyed has a government office with statutory authority specifically created to oversee and enforce sunshine laws.
  • State employees are not adequately trained to carry out open government policies and may be unintentionally violating the laws.
  • Citizens may be able to attend meetings, but there are very few opportunities to participate. “

Article

Twitter comes to the White House

May 2, 2009

Here it is: 

http://twitter.com/whitehouse

San Jose City Website

April 19, 2009

http://www.sanjoseca.gov/index.asp

Transparency:  Like many cities, you have to search to find videos of the city council meetings.  They aren’t available or linked from the City Council page.  You have to know to click on “open government” to find the video archives but at least they have them. “B”

Feedback:  There are a few opportunities to provide feedback to the city about plighted property, abandoned vehicles and an online police report.  Not only is it a pretty limited set of items but you have to guess that you would find them under “Online Forms.”  “C”

Richness of information: They have a very comprehensive section for the planning department include the ability to search and apply for permits online.  You need to register with them to access the permit application section.  They also have extensive information about various aspect of the building process including substantive areas such as plumbing, electrical and mechanical but also process information as well.  My only criticism is that it could be easier to find a link from the home page.  Instead, you have to go through city departments to find it.  “A-“

Transacting business:  There is a form “Registration Form for Business Tax” that can be filled out online but has to be submitted by mail or in-person.   There is a link from the home pages for “business information” and from there its pretty easy to find the form and other information about registering your business with the city.  “B”

Overall: San Jose is in the heart of the Silicon Valley and given its access to cutting-edge technology, I was surprised at how average the website is.  They aren’t particularly strong on providing interactivity for various aspects of doing business with the City but they do have a fair amount of information.  I didn’t find the website that easy to navigate either; you are frequently taken off the main URL and its not always clear where to go for information from the home page.  “B-“

OpenSecrets.org releases 200 million government records

April 14, 2009

“Center has enhanced its online campaign finance profiles for members of Congress. Visitors to OpenSecrets.org now have three options for viewing the top industries and contributors supporting a particular lawmaker: 1) money raised by the politician’s campaign committee, 2) money raised by the politician’s leadership PAC or 3) money raised by the campaign and PAC combined. More than 300 members of Congress are also linked to a political action committee, ostensibly to raise money to support other members of their party.”

Article

Sunlight Foundation proposes lobbying oversight website

April 13, 2009

This sounds promising:
“Sunlight proposes a single Web site administered by the executive branch that would aggregate lobbying disclosures from officials from across the executive branch. The Web-based lobbying disclosure process allows for real time reporting, after each lobbying meeting is held with agency employees covered by disclosure rules. They would report their name and agency, the lobbyist with whom they met, any clients the lobbyist represents and other detailed information.

The online disclosure process designed by Sunlight would create a single view of all paid lobbying, allowing the public to track lobbying meetings. It would be sortable by lobbyist, official, agency, subject matter, lobbyist’s client and date. Sunlight’s proposed disclosure system would give Americans unprecedented access to monitor and analyze real time information about lobbying.”

Article

City of Atlanta Website

April 12, 2009

City of Atlanta:

http://www.atlantaga.gov/

Transparency: Atlanta handles videos of it City Council the right way; they integrate the videos of council meeting with the agendas and minutes.  Its all together under one tab.  My only criticisms are that the label “legislation” is misleading as agenda meetings aren’t the same as the laws that are passed.  I would use the term “Activities.”    I also think that having the council pages on a separate website where its difficult to return to the municipal website’s homepage is a mistake as well.  B+

Feedback: Not much here.  There is a good form to report a pothole.  There is a tab for communication but its all one way; what the city wants to communicate to its citizens and not the other way around.  “C”

Richness of information:  For information about building permits for both residential and commercial, the website is quite weak.  For business permits there is simply a page with links to various approved permits and for residential permits there is a page that discusses the hours of the department.  They do not provide much information about types of permits or what’s required to obtain them. “D”

Transacting business:  It was easy to find out about apply for a business license from the “How do I” pull down on the homepage.  The link provides the forms but they must be filled out off-line and mailed to the appropriate city office.  “C+”

Overall: Atlanta’s municipal website is a mixed bag.  Decent navigation and transparency but not a lot of useful features or information.  Its time for a nice juicy site overhaul.  “C”

Vote for the best government transparency tool

April 7, 2009

The Sunlight Foundation is running a contest for people to vote on the website or application that is the “coolest” open source, open government application and contest has been so successful, garnering so many entries that its had to be extended for another week.

Article

City of Portland Website

March 29, 2009

http://www.portlandonline.com/

Transparency:  They have videos of city council meetings but navigating to them isn’t easy.  From the home page there is a link to city council agendas but they don’t include the video.  I had to pull down the tab for “services” and pick council and then find the videos.  This is a major problem with most municipal sites.  They allow where the resource is generated, in the case of video by public access television or the like, to determine how someone accesses it.  Even if there are limitations in where the videos are housed, there is no reason that a visible and prominent link can’t be made on the main page for city council resources.  “B”

Feedback: From the home page you mouse over “Services Request” and there are a list of services which you can request online including reporting an abandoned car, noise, construction permit, graffiti and the like.  What isn’t explained from this page is that you need to fill-out an online log-in account.  That would be useful.  “B-“

Richness of information: The City of Portland makes it very easy to find information about zoning and permits.  There is a clear link under “Business” for zoning and permits.  Once you click on that it takes you to the Bureau of Development Services which has done a really good job of laying out various types of permits and how to obtain them with a reassuring and sensible internal consistency.  “A-“

Transacting business:The City of Portland provides lots of business information under “start a Portland Business” but it places information about “new business” at the bottom of the page forcing you to scroll to get there.  The word “start” suggests “new” so resources relating to first time start up should be at the top of the page.  Also, you can’t fill-out forms online or submit them.  “C+”

Overall: This isn’t a bad website.  The materials regarding permits and zoning are quite good.  There appears to be lots of useful information but its not very interactive or easy to navigate.  For a city with such a progressive reputation I was expecting a website to reflect that and this one doesn’t. “B”


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