Holiday Letter from D.C. Open Government Coalition
Fritz Mulhauser | December 22, 2023
Coalition board president, Kirsten Mitchell, sends this letter to all:
Dear Friend of Open Government:
As the New Year approaches, the D.C. Open Government Coalition (DCOGC) thanks you for your support and commitment to enhancing public access to government information and ensuring the transparency of the District of Columbia government.
In the coming year, save the evening of March 13 to join us at our annual Sunshine Week Community Summit (details forthcoming). We will continue our annual advocacy at D.C. Council performance and budget oversight sessions, and we are planning redesigned outreach and public education activities as well. We anticipate interesting developments in our signature legal work, with cases pending in both D.C. courts.
While looking forward to the new year, we are proud of the work of the past year — including these events and accomplishments in 2023:
- D.C. OGC continued community conversations and open government training held in partnership with the D.C. Public Library in 2023, with sessions in multiple branches on accessing D.C. school, police, and other records. We shared our experience and access tips with student journalists from Howard University and the University of Maryland. This year we plan more work to help student journalists and activists on college campuses and in high schools, as well as a new training series in library branches.
- Our board members testified more than 15 times before D.C. Council, including opposing the mayor’s ACT Now crime proposals in a marathon November hearing. The mayor now asks the Council to reverse the transparency provisions of the police reform bill passed unanimously just a year ago (that enhanced public access to body-worn camera video and opened police complaint and discipline files for the first time after years of Coalition advocacy). The mayor earlier had refused to request funds in the fiscal year 2024 budget to pay for the police transparency work processing requests and creating a new database on complaints, so we have a busy agenda to keep the law strong and achieve full funding.
- The Coalition filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Superior Court to establish the important principle that 21st century digital government databases are records subject to FOIA requests like any file drawer full of papers. We helped dozens of citizens, reporters, and researchers with FOIA requests and appeals. And we achieved results. Our advocacy, with community partners, led to Council support for finally completing backlogged FOIA appeals from the pandemic era; a start on planning for digitization of D.C. records; needed funding for a new D.C. Archives building; and improvements in records and information access in multiple parts of D.C. government including ANCs, the rental housing commission, and the central Office of Administrative Hearings.
As with every new year, we are mindful that there still is a lot of work to do. We are confident that with your help and enhanced collaboration with others in the District’s watchdog community, we will meet the mounting challenges and have a productive year. But our board consists of all volunteers with their own full-time day jobs, and open government matters grow each year. (Reach us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The D.C. OGC takes no dues — we rely solely on the generosity of people like you. Any amount you can contribute will go directly to strengthening what we do. Please consider supporting us by making a year-end donation at https://dcogc.org/donate/ or via check to D.C. OGC, 3901 Argyle Terrace, N.W., Washington, DC 20011.
On a personal note, the past year was my first as D.C. OGC president, as I succeeded the Coalition’s founder and guiding light, Tom Susman. It has been a pleasure working with the board to continue our work toward bringing more sunshine to D.C. government. On behalf of the Coalition, we thank you for your support these many years. Together, we can bring more transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement to the District of Columbia government.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and enjoyable New Year!
With best regards,
President, D.C. Open Government Coalition
The D.C. Open Government Coalition is exempt from federal income tax as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our EIN is 26-4520540.