Posts tagged ‘transparency’

U Street upgrade project site lacks Web two point oh-ness


File this one in the annals of Web2., uh, sort of?

It appears as though a U Street upgrade project is underway in the District, and the D.C. DOT has created a nifty little Web site to involve the public in the process. Well, perhaps I should put the word “involve” in quotation marks.

Unfortunately, the site only includes broad descriptions of the project – currently in the “design” phase. (more…)


July 2, 2009 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

On lobbying and transparency

It’s a dreary, rainy morning here in Washington, D.C., a perfect excuse to curl up and read two interesting articles on lobbying and transparency.

First, from the Columbia Journalism Review, an article on how ProPublica is picking up the slack when it comes to putting ethics information on the internet:

“In the past, we could have used them for a story and then set them aside,” says ProPublica’s Amanda Michel, the former director of The Huffington Post’s OffTheBus project who now manages ProPublica’s distributed reporting efforts. “We put out these documents, first and foremost, as a part of our mission, to make these documents available for the press and the public.”

“You know that these documents will be helpful to someone, but we don’t know who would need it or when,” says Pierce. “At ProPublica, we’ve got sort of a weird hybrid between doing our own reporting and trying to be a reporting resource for other people.”

Second, an insightful piece from Newsweek that distinguishes between good lobbying and bad lobbying – and describes how new rules fail to note the difference:

As a matter of law, however, it is probably impossible to distinguish between them. Both are exercising the same First Amendment right to petition the government. Both have a legal obligation to register as lobbyists. The rule that bars the one Obama doesn’t want prevents him from hiring the one he does want. In addition to denying the president the service of any number of desirable nominees, the new rules are undermining the disclosure laws they’re intended to reinforce, since all kinds of lobbyists are now desperate to avoid registering. The exceptions Obama has made to this bad policy only make the unfairness worse.

April 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

Why are “public interest” events so ineffective? (Or: How we can learn from Powershift09)

whistleblowerI feel slightly guilty for writing this post. After all, I work at a public interest non-profit. I willingly admit I’m a huge geek when it comes to government accountability and transparency. But I simply cannot get excited about “event weeks” dedicated to this subject.

What “event weeks” am I referencing, you ask? Well, we’re just coming off the heels of the National Whistleblower Assembly, a.k.a. “Whistleblower Week,” and Sunday marks the beginning of Sunshine Week. And that’s not all. Monday is “FOI Day,” and there’s even a “Law Day” May 1.

One of the biggest issues I have with these types of events is their scope: How many people outside the beltway actually know about them (lawyers don’t count)? And do these events really educate the public as effectively as their sponsors proclaim? (more…)

March 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

So much for government transparency

Watchdog groups and government transparency fans got pretty excited a few weeks ago when they heard that House members promised to put contracts for the $800 billion economic stimulus package online.

But the Washington Independent reports today that, surprise surprise, these contracts aren’t really going to be online. Government contractors opposed making the contracts public, and lawmakers conceded. The final stimulus bill requires only a summary of the contracts to be posted online, and only if the contracts are worth more than $500,000. (more…)

March 12, 2009 at 10:02 pm Leave a comment