Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sunshine Week - News, Resources

I just got back from a great Sunshine Week event, Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know. It was a national webcast followed by a local discussion with Michele Earl-Hubbard (co-editor of WSBA's Public Records Act Deskbook, KFW462.5.P8 .P83 2006 at Reference Area in the Gallagher Law Library) and Knute Berger (columnist for Crosscut and for Washington Law & Politics, editor-at-large of Seattle Magazine). See Mr. Berger's Crosscut column this week: It's Sunshine Week: Do you know what your government is doing?.

Local sponsors were Law Librarians of Puget Sound, the Washington State Library, and the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

I'd like to share some of what I picked up.


Ms. Earl-Hubbard's firm just filed cases against five government entities for violating the public meetings law: Wash. open-government advocates sue five agencies around the state. Wash. open-government advocates sue five agencies around state, Seattle P-I, March 17, 2008.

Washington open-government advocates rang in Sunshine Week by filing lawsuits Monday accusing one regional and four local agencies of violating the state's public meetings law.

The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, Arlington School Board, Yelm Fire District, Port of Longview and town of Ridgefield improperly conducted public business in closed "executive sessions" or held illegal secret meetings, the complaints say.

They were filed by Allied Law Group, a Seattle and Olympia law firm that focuses on open-government cases, on behalf of the Spokane-based public interest group Center for Justice.
(By the way, you can get a nice sampling of public disclosure disputes by going to the Seattle Times or Seattle P-I website and searching for "Earl-Hubbard." She's been involved in scads!)


Cool resources highlighted by some of the speakers in the webcast:
  • brings together bill information (text, sponsors, actions) with news and blog coverage of the bill. (The speaker said the site's software is open-source and the group would love to see others pick it up. is the first state site.

  • EveryBlock compiles municipal government information and lets you search by address or ZIP code. So -- if you're in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago (so far) -- you can find out about burglaries, stolen cars, building permits, restaurant health inspections, and more right in your neighborhood.

  • (from the Center for Responsive Politics) focuses on campaign finance and the information available in disclosure statements of members of Congress, the President, and presidential candidates. You can find information about individuals, about PACs, about industries (e.g., look at the trend in pharmaceutical companies' donations), and so on.

  •, "created by OMB Watch, is a free, searchable database of approximately $16.8 trillion in Federal government spending, with complete annual data from FY 2000 through FY 2006 and partial data available for FY 2007." Grants and contracts -- who gets them? where are they (by state, by congressional district)? how much?
    • In December, the federal government "launched a website mandated by the Federal Funding, Accountability, and Transparency Act. The website is based on the software that runs OMB Watch intends to continue to operate and upgrade, adding new features and data to provide a more powerful accountability tool for citizens."

No comments: