Below: the Washington state winners and champions in public meeting transparency online. They not only put meeting agendas online; they use software platforms which put into those online agendas, individual links to individual business items. This is far more user-friendly than the next-best practice, which is to bundle all the agenda packet documents into one .pdf file dozens or hundreds of pages long. This way constituents, reporters and other information seekers can see exactly what elected officials are considering – on an item-by-item basis – and can link to the specific documents in their online communications at web sites, blogs and in social media, boosting accuracy and accountability for online news and commentary. That’s something badly needed in these times. The Winners List follows. It is made up of direct links to the most user-friendly, document-rich agenda pages of local and regional governments in Washington state, grouped by county.
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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
by Matt Rosenberg September 4th, 2012
by Matt Rosenberg September 4th, 2012
Open meetings laws and public records laws are a bulwark of our democracy, to be widely promoted and firmly upheld. Yet the bar is rising still higher for government transparency as many elected bodies go beyond mere compliance with these legal requirements — by voluntarily providing better public access to their business, online. A key indicator for local and regional elected bodies is ease of online access to meeting agenda packet individual items, prior to meeting times. Following and grouped by county, are links to meeting agenda pages, or where none are available, meeting minutes pages or board roster pages for city and town councils in Washington state, plus school boards, county boards, public hospital boards, public utility districts and local/regional transit boards. Here we cover areas outside Central Puget Sound (King, Snohomish and Pierce counties), which have already been indexed in guides linked to at the end of this post.
This directory’s purpose is to promote wider access to the business of government, and particularly to agenda-specific original source documents posted online. Reporters, bloggers and other information providers can use these government source materials in their own online published work to enhance their own accuracy and accountability, and to better advance rational and richer discourse about current public policy matters.
We assign the following code for each government body included below:
(Continued…..agenda page and document links for local, regional govts. in all WA counties)
by Zachariah Bryan June 30th, 2012
Earlier this month in Cuba, peaceful political dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, or “Antunez,” was jailed, beaten and pepper sprayed. This took place just three days after he testified to a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the Cuban government’s repression of citizens’ free speech rights. Though for thousands of Cuban citizens such harassment has long been common, acts of repression in Cuba burgeoned last year, according to the Cuba section of a recent global human rights report from the U.S. Department of State. In 2011, The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation counted a total of 4,123 short-term detentions, a 99 percent increase over 2010, according to the State Department report. This year’s pace is even higher, with documented political arrests in Cuba at more than 2,400 since January; 1,158 in March alone, according to testimony of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) at the subcommittee hearing earlier this month.
by Matt Rosenberg January 11th, 2012
Since a Washington State Supreme Court ruling in 2008, King County Jail authorities have been able to continue legally recording phone calls made by detainees. County prosecutors say calls by those charged with domestic violence especially can yield valuable evidence. Signs near phone areas warn all detainees their calls will be recorded and potentially incriminating statements may be used against them. This does not always prevent them from instructing their alleged victims not to testify, or threatening them, as shown in a recent episode of the The Justice Files from King County TV.
One in three murders in King County are domestic violence-related, says King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
RELATED: King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor David Martin was part of a research team which supervised analysis of recordings of 25 Washington State felony domestic violence detainees using phone calls to try to convince their wives or girlfriends to recant. The article was published in July 2011 in the journal Social Science and Medicine and is titled, “‘Meet me at the hill where we used to park’: Interpersonal processes associated with victim recantation.” The authors conclude that detainees use a common set of emotional tactics to urge recantation and that victim advocates should work to raise awareness among victims of these tactics.
Donate to our 501c3 tax-exempt parent non-profit, Public Eye Northwest.
by Matt Rosenberg October 18th, 2011
The Seattle-based non-profit Public Eye Northwest (PEN) has just received approval from the Internal Revenue Service to operate as a tax-exempt 501c3 public charity. This will enable the ramping up of an investment campaign to sustain the organization. Formed in late 2010 first as a Washington state non-profit, PEN advances voluntary government transparency and civic education through public service journalism and community outreach work. PEN is non-partisan.
One key project of PEN is the news knowledge base Public Data Ferret, which produces plain-language summaries of recent, high-news value public documents found online. The summaries are then archived and searchable at the Ferret hub by jurisdiction and topic – and are used by media, students and researchers, government and a range of other stakeholders. Public Data Ferret is a member of the Seattle Times News Partner Network. PEN also trains student journalists, and has led forums about voluntary online government transparency for the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy, Seattle Pacific University, the U.S. State Department’s Visiting Foreign Leadership Program, groups of public affairs professionals, and others.
PEN provides free informal consultations to government officials on how to improve online transparency, and at its Social Capital Review blog – the parent site of Public Data Ferret – PEN also promotes the work of other non-profits on concerns such as literacy, public health, public lands and recreation, human rights, open government and civic engagement. Additionally and in cooperation with top scholars, PEN has begun an “open science” reporting initiative to highlight key findings of medical and scientific research from publicly-funded institutions serving Western Washington (particularly the University of Washington), and the U.S.
David Griswold, Vice-President of PEN’s 10-member board of directors, said, “now that we’ve got federal tax-exempt status we’re looking forward to reaching out for investment that will help our organization sustain its work of daylighting what the public sector does and why a lot of that matters to us all.” Griswold added, “The Seattle region is blessed with a vibrant ecosystem of innovative news providers and civic engagement programs. At the same time though, there has been an explosion across the U.S. of social media and news and commentary sites that are often entrenched in partisan warfare. This accents the need for factual, objective information from unbiased sources as a building block for public engagement, and civility in the public square. Established mainstream media still make valuable contributions, but community and non-profit actors have to step in, as well. PEN is filling an important role with its systematic focus on the stuff that slips between the cracks.”
PEN founder and Executive Director Matt Rosenberg emphasized the importance of voluntary government transparency. He said, “Mandated government disclosure through open records and open meetings laws is a cornerstone of our democracy and goes hand in hand with freedom of the press and freedom of political expression. But disclosure laws, as essential as they are, don’t currently yield the kind of baseline transparency needed. We’re encouraged to see more and more government bodies that are already starting to go the extra mile by making important documents and data available online without being required to do so by law; things such as staff memos, draft legislation, special reports, studies, investigations, audits, contracts with vendors, meeting agendas, meeting packet documents, special search tools for sets of public records, and government data sets that civic-minded software developers can turn into new, stakeholder-focused apps.”
Rosenberg added, “As a society we can always use more and better government transparency, whether it results from stronger disclosure laws, collaboration between the public and officialdom, or both. But even as we search for more sunlight, there’s already an abundance of information out there. So one big question is, ‘what do you do with transparency once you’ve got it?’ Information can be used in ways that add to today’s political polarization and stridency, or in ways that build bridges and help provide bottom-up solutions to challenges faced by those who collect and spend tax monies. Stakeholders are not ‘eyeballs’ to be marketed to; more and more they are choosing to be full-fledged participants in shaping the collective will, with a sharp eye on difficult public policy decisions we face in our city halls, public school systems, statehouses and the U.S. Congress.”
Public Eye Northwest received pro-bono representation from the Seattle law firm Foster Pepper in its application for federal tax-exempt status.
Donate to our tax-exempt parent non-profit, Public Eye Northwest.
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 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.
by Matt Rosenberg June 9th, 2011
SUMMARY: A new report from the Federal Communications Commission warns of an overall national deficit in professional local news reporting focused on government accountability. In response, the report recommends a number of strategies. These include philanthropy by individuals and foundations – especially place-based civic foundations – which accents the importance of strong news ecosystems and healthy news nonprofits to healthy communities; plus more robust and systematic online transparency by local and state governments; and possible changes or clarifications to the U.S. tax code to encourage the financial sustainability of non-profit media.
by Matt Rosenberg April 21st, 2011
“From Washington D.C. to Washington state, events conspire to remind us that the quest for open government is still a work in progress. One case in point: Out here in the verdant, drizzly climes of the Pacific Northwest, a recent legislative attempt to ratchet up baseline Web disclosure by local governments and the state ran aground.”