Transparency News 2/20/20


February 20, 2020

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March 20, Harrisonburg
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state & local news stories



Interim superintendent and veteran Norfolk school administrator Sharon Byrdsong was named to the post permanently Wednesday night. The surprise announcement was made midway through the Norfolk School Board’s regular meeting. A draft of her contract was posted to the board’s website just before the meeting and the board’s agenda was updated, although no mention of that was made to the public until board member Adale Martin read a resolution announcing her as the board’s choice. Though board members said repeatedly they wanted “real transparency,” the search was conducted largely in secret, with several closed session meetings in the past few weeks as the board zeroed in on its choice. The board hired Nebraska-based consultants McPherson & Jacobson to manage the search. The way it was set up, only the consultants knew all who had applied. They determined a short list of finalists for the board. The consultants held several community meetings to gather feedback on what the city wanted in its next superintendent.
The Virginian-Pilot

stories of national interest

In highly complex governmental environments, open data in and of itself will not enable common understanding, collaboration or problem-solving unless it's organized and can be visualized in a way that makes sense to those who need it. Few governments match that of California in size or complexity, but in the end most of the state's work still relates to a place — a neighborhood or a city or a watershed. Fittingly, the state just took a very large step toward organizing its data around place. Last November, Amy Tong, the state's CIO and director of the California Department of Technology (CDT), and her team began work in partnership with the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps) and Gov. Gavin Newsom's office to build the California State Geoportal, a centralized geographic open data repository. It was launched in just seven weeks, on Dec. 23. The Geoportal, built on Esri's ArcGIS platform, already includes over 1,200 data sets from more than 30 state government departments, including data on water quality, public transportation, wildfires and much more. Users can interact with the different data sets on the platform, adding layers to maps with a suite of analytical tools.

Since 2004, nearly 20 percent of local papers in the United States have folded or merged, according to a 2018 study by the Hussman School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina. In many cases, publishers have been replaced by a narrow network of large investment groups that have acquired hundreds of failing newspapers. But Marfa is no ordinary town, and its newsweekly has been a pillar of the community for nearly a century — long before Marfa became cool. The Big Bend Sentinel’s pages are pasted up with major issues of the day (the death of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court justice, on a nearby luxury ranch, for example, and the possibility of a border wall just 60 miles away) alongside valedictorian announcements, photo spreads of homecoming events and advance coverage of the town’s many festivals. Before Mr. Kabat and Ms. Crow took over, the paper ran solely on an ad sales and subscriptions. Instead, they landed on a cafe/bar where locals could work and tourists could recharge. They would rent the kitchen space to local cooks to serve food throughout the day. And though they wouldn’t make money off the food itself, they could turn a profit on drinks. Eventually, there would be requests to rent the space for private events.
The New York Times


"The way it was set up, only the consultants knew all who had applied."