Transparency News 10/1/18

national stories of interest

A Marion County, Indiana, judge has ordered the Indiana governor's office to turn over emails between then-Gov. Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump about jobs at Carrier Corp.  In a Monday ruling, Superior Court Judge Heather Welch gave Gov. Eric Holcomb, who succeeded Pence when Pence became vice president, 30 days to deliver the documents, dating from Nov. 14 to 29, 2016, to Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana. The nonprofit first requested them in December 2016.
USA Today

Washington, D.C., transportation officials acknowledge hundreds of conflicting or confusing street signs have further complicated the search for parking spaces for residents, visitors and workers. Public records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the News4 I-Team show D.C. officials reviewed at least 800 conflicting parking signs since 2016 and made repairs or modifications to most of them.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took a page out of Rodney Dangerfield’s playbook — griping in an email that he gets no “respect” from the city’s news media, newly released records revealed Thursday. In a Nov. 15, 2014, message titled “Familiarity breeds contempt,” Hizzoner whined to City Hall aides and an outside political consultant about how a column he’d penned about recent election results was rejected by The New York Times. De Blasio’s candid remarks are contained in more than 14,000 pages of emails released by City Hall under cover of a day when the news was dominated by the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The Post and NY1 had to file suit to get access to the emails, which de Blasio claimed were exempt from the state Freedom of Information Law on grounds that his political consultants were “agents of the city.” Those arguments were rejected by a judge and an appeals court.
New York Post

The public can now watch hundreds of hours of moving images online for free at the newly launched National Screening Room of the Library of Congress. A project of the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, the online screening room features movies in the public domain that are fully downloadable, according to a news release.
The Free Lance-Star

Hearings in the 9/11 death-penalty trial may be held in the Washington area for the first time since the case began, a move some lawyers say would bolster the argument that alleged terrorists are entitled to greater Constitutional protections at Guantánamo trials.On Sept. 17, the new trial judge ordered prosecutors to scout for a Top Secret site in the Washington D.C. area to hold closed sessions Nov. 7-9 “in the interest of judicial economy.” The judge, Marine Col. Keith Parrella, cast the stateside location as a solution to a scheduling conflict in Guantánamo’s only maximum-security court chamber.

A judge ordered Tuesday that Louisville, Kentucky, must turn over to the Courier Journal the full proposal it offered Amazon to build its second headquarters here.  The order was issued the day after Mayor Greg Fischer doubled down on the decision to hide details of the proposal from the public, saying it would be "business malpractice" to share.  "The Proposal has been rejected by Amazon and it is now not possible that Louisville will be the site of Amazon's HQ2," Judge Susan Schultz Gibson wrote in Tuesday's decision. "Accordingly, the redacted portions of the Proposal are not exempted from disclosure ..." 
Louisville Courier Journal

A pair of plaintiffs challenging a new Florida law raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 should not be allowed to remain anonymous during the litigation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 21 media organizations argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday. The coalition urged the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a district court's ruling denying the plaintiffs' request to use pseudonyms in the case.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press



The mayor said it would be "business malpractice" to share the full proposal to build Amazon HQ2 in Louisville, Kentucky.


editorials & columns


"The simple act of putting up a dashboard doesn’t mean it’s going to find an audience, either among decisionmakers or citizens."

SHORT OF AN unlikely last-minute reversal of fortune, it seems that Portsmouth Councilman Mark Whitaker’s time in elective office has come to a close. His July conviction on three felony counts of forgery imperiled his hold on his City Council seat. A judge’s ruling on Wednesday upholding that verdict and confirming the $7,500 fine leaves Whitaker with few options to keep it. For that, Whitaker can blame Anthony Burfoot, the former treasurer of Norfolk, who refused to resign his office for months after his 2016 conviction on felony charges of corruption. During that time, Burfoot continued to collect his public salary until he was removed from office by a judge. In response, the General Assembly unanimously approved legislation that allowed for the automatic suspension of any local official “convicted of a felony under the law … regardless of any appeals, pleadings, delays or motions.” That will leave a considerable hole on the Portsmouth City Council because Whitaker, despite all his faults, did give voice to an important and underserved constituency in City Hall. There is plenty that Whitaker brought to the table that won’t be missed, as he could be abrasive and divisive. He was on the wrong side of decisions regarding transparency in City Hall, and that was not good for the people of Portsmouth.
The Virginian-Pilot

For years we’ve been asking people in state and local government how they let people know about useful data-based information they’ve collected. Most of them answered by referring us to the wonders of their online dashboards, which are basically a graphic approach to displaying data in a way that helps policymakers and the general public easily grasp the information. But the simple act of putting up a dashboard doesn’t mean it’s going to find an audience, either among decisionmakers or citizens. One of the problems confronting a number of state and local dashboards is that they don’t deliver the information their audience covets.
Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing