Open Government Summit – March 18, 2020CANCELED FOR NOW

The Coalition’s Sunshine Week Summit event set again in March, our annual free reception and program celebrating the values of open and responsive government we fight for, is canceled for now. Thanks to all who helped plan the Summit, promised to speak or attend.

We do intend to reschedule this event for a later date, so please keep checking our website and/or social media (@DCOGC on Twitter and DC Open Government Coalition on Facebook) for more information.

When: March 18 at 6:30.

Where: American Bar Association, 1050 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, DC (corner of L Street; Metro Red line Farragut North stop, L Street exit); 5th floor

Who: All are invited. Those attending include government officials; press, bloggers and researchers; nonprofit leaders; and a wide variety of community members who rely on open government law.


Newsmakers (Updated): The program will include special guests, two members of the D.C. Council, Chairman Phil Mendelson and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large).

Council Chair Phil Mendelson

Phil Mendelson was first elected at large in 1998 and as chairman three times since 2012. He leads the Council on all legislative matters and also presides over the Committee of the Whole. The committee oversees, among other areas, the budget and the Freedom of Information Act, and shares oversight of the K-12 education area with the Committee on Education.

Now in her second term, Council member Elissa Silverman has a special concern for issues of transparency as a former reporter for The Washington Post and “Loose Lips” columnist for the Washington City Paper, former analyst for D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, and now as chair of the Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development where she has aggressively pushed for data for oversight.

Open Government Failure of the Year: Demonstration, with graphic video exhibits, illustrating the egregious over-redaction of body camera videos released by D.C. police to Freedom of Information Act requesters (based on incorrect legal theories about privacy).

Lightning talks: (topic list in progress)

  • Steve Thompson of The Washington Post on using FOIA to report on the D.C. Council
  • Coalition legal co-chair Fritz Mulhauser on how six school names are still secret
  • Martin Austermuhle of WAMU on what he’s found this year on D.C. government staff use of WhatsApp
  • Ariel Levinson-Waldman of Tzedek DC on how data he got via FOIA led to legislation restoring driver’s permits to thousands
  • Niquelle Allen on news and updates from the D.C. Office of Open Government which she directs
  • tech-topic: could AI-powered redaction methods end government agencies’ complaints about “FOIA review burden” forever?

Join us. Help us get a count by dropping us a line at

Background on Sunshine Week and the OGC Summit

March 16 is the birthday of James Madison, who once wrote:

“[a] popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”1

He also wrote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge” is “the only Guardian of true liberty.”2

Jonathan Make wrote up the 2019 summit event in a post on Medium, March 12.

Earlier summits are described in older blog posts, for example 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 or 2017.

The Coalition’s summit is the annual event where the open government community comes together to celebrate accomplishments and look ahead to next steps.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council members have joined us, as well as top officials such as the Chief Technology Officer, directors of the Office of Open Government, and the D.C. Auditor.

News breaks sometimes, as in 2019 when summit presenters included charter school teachers who detailed their advocacy for change in the law after secret board and management actions at their schools, along with Council member Charles Allen who previewed a dramatic charter school transparency bill he would introduce just 48 hours later. Two elected ANC commissioners also joined us in 2019 to describe their own efforts to find the government information they need to do their job of being the voice of their neighborhoods, And civic hackers over the years have showcased amazing applications built on open data.

1 Letter from James Madison to W.T. Barry (August 4, 1822), in The Writings of James Madison (Gaillard Hunt ed.).

2 Letter from James Madison to George Thomson (June 30, 1825) (on file with The James Madison Papers at The Library of Congress).