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D.C. Office of Open Government Annual Report Calls for Important Changes to Increase Transparency

dcogcadmin | January 7, 2015 | Last modified: September 8, 2019

The Director of the D.C. Office of Open Government, the watchdog over key areas of government transparency in the Distrct, on December 31, 2014,  issued a sweeping set of proposals for executive action and new legislation to improve access to public records and meetings, and suggested a novel way the government could work more closely with citizens on a part of the annual D.C. budget.

Proposals from the Office Director, Traci Hughes, are in the second part of the “2014 Best Practices Report” jointly issued at year’s end with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA).

The report’s recommendations range across the spectrum of open government topics.

  • Echoing concerns of observers including the Open Government Coalition, the report calls for mandatory posting of all boards’ and commissions’ meeting information on a central site and extending Open Meetings Act coverage to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
  • The report recommends the Mayor delegate authority to oversee the new common website set up in 2014 to receive most public records requests (called “FOIAXpress“) as well as the handling of all appeals from agency denials of requests and also the annual reports on the public records process required by law.
  • In the burgeoning area of “open data” the report calls for Council legislation so that progress on opening access shouldn’t be limited as resources and prioriities change within the executive branch–citing other states and cities that have gone this route by requiring in statute the publication, maintenance and archiving of government data.
  • And venturing into a new area of open government, the report calls for adoption of “participatory budgeting” (a process tried in recent years in New York City where funds in the capital budget are set aside for citizen determination of priorities) as well as better access to the budget documents that aren’t now issued in an accessible format.

The Open Government Office report, together with the Coalition’s own action plan submitted in November to Mayor Bowser, the transition team and the Council, provide important resources for the new administration and Council to use in setting priorities for policy-making in 2015.