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D.C. body-cam program highlights issues of national concern
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D.C. body-cam access aired on Newseum TV

D.C. is at forefront of national debate over need to protect public access with sensitivity to crime victims' privacy concerns.

Flagstaff, Ariz., body camera video captures fatal encounter
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Coalition updates nationwide body cam access report

Find out how states, cities are addressing thorny issues of collection, retention and public access.

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Coalition's first amicus brief tests Council exemption claim

Superior Court ruling would create 'FOIA black hole' from which Council records might never escape.

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2018 - 12:47am

Rewriting the law to end the independence of the D.C. Office of Open Government this summer, the D.C. Council at least mandated that the new overseers, the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA), include one member equipped with experience in the challenging terrain of law and policy as government responds to 21st century citizen expectations of government access. But it's not happening.

The five-member board previously concentrated on investigating complaints and punishing government employees who violated ethics rules (for example, misuse of authority or property, conflicts of interest, improper political activity,). Its only role in open government (as the Council had provided in law) was to appoint the office director.

The D.C. Open Government Coalition opposed the change requiring that the whole open government activity report to the board as assigning too much new work to a body ill-equipped (arguing instead for a new specialized and expert board devoted to open government issues alone as in many states).

Now the law says at least one member “shall have particular experience in open government and transparency.”

Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) assured open government supporters during consideration of the controversial structural change (passed without a hearing) that this new and specific requirement showed undiminished Council support for open government.

Posted on Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 9:53am

Where to locate schools in D.C. shouldn’t be hard, but rational plans for building and remodeling have eluded city officials for years. And even when the D.C. Council stepped in a few years ago with a new Planning Actively for Comprehensive Education (PACE) Facilities Act setting a new process based on public data, all is not well. Plans to be released this week rest on suspect foundations because a bunch of data is still secret.

Rachel Cohen’s 4,000 word cover story in today’s City Paper shows what’s happened. “A number of glaring obstacles to comprehensive school facility planning have emerged,” she reports, “and elected officials, reluctant to confront tough politics, have worked to reinterpret or simply ignore the intent of the law that they themselves authorized.”  

Emails obtained by the Open Government Coalition through the Freedom of Information Act play a role in part of Cohen’s story. They show how education officials agreed charter schools could evade the law’s data requirements--that each facility would be assessed and a master plan developed from all the assessments with underlying data made public.