Archive for the ‘Sunshine Laws’ Category

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. “


Courts featuring more audio recording online

April 19, 2009

A pilot project to make digital audio recordings of courtroom proceedings publicly available online has been expanded, from five federal courts to nine, through the end of 2009.

The audio files are accessible through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. More than 950.000 subscribers use PACER to access docket and case information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts.

Press release

Feds opening up to use of YouTube etc.

March 28, 2009

The General Services Administration has announced that it has signed agreements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and that make it possible for federal agencies to use new-media tools.

I hope this will allow the federal goverment to let the sunshine in!


Local government glossary

February 8, 2009

A small town in Florida, Port St. Lucie, has put out a glossary of terms used by government entities.  Here’s one I didn’t know:

charrette – a creative, intense work session with public workshops & open houses

This is a good reminder that great content on the web can come from anywhere.  Hat tip to Resourceshelf.

Sunday Special: that toddlin’ town, Chicago!

December 21, 2008

Today I’m reviewing the City of Chicago’s municipal website:

Transparency:  I was excited when I found the City Council page and it said, “City Council Webcasts.”  I clicked on that link and it told me that the next meeting would be on Jan. 13th 2009 and I would be able to watch video live stream.   That’s better than New York but when I looked for an archive of city council meeting videos, I didn’t have any luck.  You have to watch the video live.  However, there is a webpage for the “City Council Journal of Proceedings that provides awkward access to all the City Council meetings back to 1988.  “B+”

Feedback:  They have a “311” service that allows citizens to report a variety of problems.  The interface isn’t very intuitive or friendly but it’s functional.  The city doesn’t advertise this service.  There is nothing on the City’s homepage to suggest you can make a complaint.  I only found this page by putting “pothole” in the search box.  The first result looked promising but then I had to back up several screens to find the “311” service allowing me to enter my information.  “B”

Richness of Information: I spent a few minutes navigating through the “Department of Consumer Services” and found it lacking.  There are lots of navigational pages with little content that lead to pages with little content.  For example, when I clicked on “About DCS” it took me to a page with three links, “Overview,” “Website” and “Industry rules and regulations.”  I clicked on “Overview” and it provided me with a sentence that basically said, Department of Consumer Services assists consumers with their services.  Not helpful. “D”

Transacting business:  It looks like you can apply for a new business license from the City of Chicago but the process is cumbersome.  You have to fill out several screens to create a profile in order to qualify for conducting business.  Since I’m not a resident, I couldn’t go through the process.  “B”

Overall:  Compared to New York City website, the Chicago site provides more information on City Council activity and the webcast of the meetings is a plus.  It also allows citizens to perform transactions like obtaining business licenses on the web.  The search function is good which is important because the navigation is poor.  There are too many unnecessary navigational pages.  It take a several unnecessary click to drill down to the desired information.  Also like New York, the city is weak on interactivity, can’t see other citizen comments about information or engage with the site. “C+”

Show Me the Spending!

November 19, 2008


A new website,, is committed to transparency in governmental spending.   The site is aimed at the state and local level and is sponsored by the National Taxpayers Union.   The idea is terrific but think it shouldn’t be focused just on money but also on government effectiveness. 

Abuse happens in the local agency and boards that get no sunshine and that is where it would be great if a couple concerned citizens would take responsibility for both vigilance to the keep these entities on their toes.  I’m sceptical of NTU as they are a right-wing organization that doesn’t believe in the basic function of government as having the potential of improving the lives of citizens.  Still, I welcome this site and well report back on its effectiveness.