Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for July, 2011

Lately, In Transparency – #2

by Kyle Kim July 8th, 2011

To complement the work at Public Data Ferret hub, we’re using the Ferret’s Twitter account to accent news highlights from the world of government transparency, freedom of the press and human rights. Here are some of the most recent finds, for June 28 through July 7, 2011.

The British government releases a trove of data in their new transparency initiative for a more open government. Via The Guardian.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota will launch the Open Government Partnership, a “new, multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.” Via the US State Department.

A 164-page report by UN Women is filled with research to support recommendations for eliminating the global gender inequality. The Christian Science Monitor summarizes the report’s 10 key recommendations. In additional UN-related news, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay voiced skepticism on the world’s financial commitment to human rights: “It (funding for UN’s human rights system) is reportedly about the same amount as Australians spend on Easter eggs. It is about the same as the cost of three F-16 jet-fighters. It is one 50th of the 2010 cinema box office revenues in the United States; and the amount Europeans spent on their pets in 2010 alone (Euros 56.8 billion) would fund the entire UN human rights system, including my office, for something like 250 years.”

Public Data Ferret intern Kyle Kim reports how the benefits of Washington State’s initiative for greener buildings are unclear.

Highlighting concerns about concentration of media ownership, critics are voicing sharp criticism over the British government’s approval for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to acquire British Sky Broadcasting, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Politico reported the U.S. Army’s $2.7 billion cloud computing system has hurt more than it has helped the war efforts in Afhganistan and Iraq due to malfunction.

Washington Post:”Radiohead takes tentative step into censored Chinese cyberspace, launches Twitter-like page”

The Texas Watchdog has created a video on how to use open government laws to learn more about education-related issues.

A Texas law is requiring state agencies to post high-value data sets online. The aim is to improve government transparency and civic engagement. Via the Texas Tribune.

Tens of thousands of questions in the form of tweets were sent to President Obama in the Twitter Town Halll event, making him the first president in history to live tweet.

Public Data Ferret intern Melissa Steffan reports how the Washington State legislative audit committee found the state paid $399 million in government negligence, or tort claims from 2004 through 2010.

The White House launched an “engage” page in an attempt to encourage civic dialogue and participation. In the same week, the top White House salaries were released.

The Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency and accountability proponent, reports on how the public has been left out of the American debt ceiling discussion. The organization also covered how two reporters were arrested in a Washington D.C. public meeting.

The Associated Press is to open bureau in North Korea. Via Poynter.

Google’s Transparency Report reveals the U.S government made 54 content removal requests to the company in the second half of 2010.

Follow MrDataFerret on Twitter.

Legislative audit: benefits of Washington state’s green buildings not clear

by Kyle Kim July 7th, 2011


SUMMARY: The benefits of Washington state’s push for environmentally friendlier public buildings remain unclear, according to a legislative report. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee’s High Performance Public Buildings report revealed they could not completely assess the program because state agencies and some school districts are failing to report information as required by law. Where a full year’s performance data was available by the reporting deadline, most high-performance buildings exceeded their estimated energy usage due to factors such as changes in design or equipment, difficulties in operating “new and complex energy technology,” greater than anticipated after-hours use of the buildings, and energy wasting by occupants such as covering vents. The committee recommended more time to measure performance and better agency compliance on submitting energy performance data.

JLARC: Tort claims costs Washington $399 million from ‘04 to ‘10

by Melissa Steffan July 6th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a recent Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee preliminary report, the State of Washington spent $399 million in so-called tort claim payouts related to alleged governmental negligence between 2004 and 2010. Three state agencies — the departments of Transportation, Corrections, and Social and Health Services — accounted for 75 percent of these expenses, and the report found that the majority of these costs stemmed from the State of Washington’s increased tort liability in lawsuits against the state. In addition, the JLARC report found that the risk management process for these agencies is not always consistent with the State of Washington’s Enterprise Risk Management Strategy. As a result, JLARC recommended several practices for all three agencies, including stronger steps to address risk and report on the effects of actions taken by state employees.

Culver City firm and feds recall flammable dresses sold at Macy’s

by Matt Rosenberg July 1st, 2011

The Culver City-based apparel firm Topson Downs and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have announced a recall of about 2,100 “Mint Chili Combo” dresses sold at the Impulse Department of Macy’s department stores nationwide and on macys.com due to risk of flammability. Apparel flammability standards are regulated in the U.S. under the Flammable Fabrics Act.

City Auditor: Seattle legal and liability claims total nearly $75 million over four years

by Melissa Steffan July 1st, 2011

SUMMARY: A recent City of Seattle Auditor’s report found that over a four-year period, from 2007 to 2010, the City of Seattle spent nearly $30 million to settle lawsuits filed against it. This accounts for 39 percent of the total $74,767,406 spent by the City of Seattle to cover legal judgments and financial claims against it during that time. The annual total continues to trend downward from a recent high in 2008. The auditor’s report recommended several strategies including stronger leadership and employee involvement, a focus on root causes of financial risk, and regular collection and analysis of data.