Cook County Develops Open Government

April 25, 2011

Open government efforts have been rapidly developing in cities, counties, state government agencies, and federal government agencies.  I hesitate to call the developing efforts prolific, but more and more efforts are popping up.  A recent article on Govloop, “How Many Open Government Projects Are There?”, helped illustrate the development of the open government movement across the country.

In January, I wrote about the development of the Model Local Open Government Directive.  The model was a product of CityCamp Colorado and a collaborative effort of CityCamp, Colorado Smart Communities, Code for America, the Sunlight Foundation, OpenPlans.  The model provided cities, counties, and other governments with a framework they could adapt to implement open government principles—transparency, participation, and collaboration.  Since that announcement, the open government movement has continued to grow.

The latest update comes in the form of the Open Cook County Plan from Cook County, Illinois.  The Open Cook County Plan, which is based at least in part on the Model Local Open Government Directive, “is aimed at making county government data and information publicly available so residents can more effectively understand, interact with and improve government.”   

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said, “I know that the historic lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of Cook County government in many residents’ eyes. Quite simply, a government that is transparent and accountable to its residents is a more effective government.”  Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey went on to say, “This initiative will allow for unprecedented interaction, allowing residents access and use of county data to better understand how county government is operating and to make recommendations on how to improve and use government and services.”

The Cook County government has clearly recognized the benefits to its citizens and itself that following open government principles will provide.  Citizen satisfaction and government efficiency are just a couple of the benefits of open government.  The opportunities for cost savings and public and private sector innovation are also abundant.

I applaud Cook County’s effort to become a leader in the open government movement, along with the federal government, San Francisco, Manor, TX, Portland, Vancouver, and many other cities, counties, and other governments.  I am also very proud to see the work of several professionals and fellow volunteers being recognized and adapted.    

With additional promotion coming at the Sunlight Foundation’s upcoming Transparency Camp and the Gov 2.0a Conference, I expect knowledge and support of the main open government principles—transparency, participation, and collaboration—and the Open Government Initiative to grow.

Advertisements

Local Open Government Directive: Building Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration

January 24, 2011

Just one year ago, Kevin Curry started the CityCamp movement to bring together local government officials, government employees, private sector technology experts, journalists, and citizens to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live and to develop practices for making their city governments more transparent, participatory, collaborative, and accountable.

In December 2010, I was proud to work with Kevin, Brian Gryth, Sean Hudson, Michele Hovet, Alissa Black, and Nicole Aro to organize CityCamp Colorado.  During the camp, Kevin, Brian, Alissa, and I began developing a model Local Open Government Directive that cities and counties can use to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration in their governments.  We modified, tailored, and improved the U.S. Open Government Directive for local government and, after the camp, we expanded the drafting process to about 30 more experts and supporters of the open government movement.

The Local Open Government Directive provides specific guidance for a city, county, or state government to develop information and data sharing practices, enhance and expand citizen participation opportunities, and collaborate with government employees, other government agencies, private sector experts, and the public.

The opportunities for transparency, participation, and collaboration described in the directive are becoming increasingly possible and efficient thanks to Internet technology and people’s desire to reclaim our government.  We will no longer accept the information government holds about us, our schools, our businesses, etc. being held behind government walls.  We will no longer accept 3-minute opportunities to speak at a city council meeting on a weekday afternoon as an opportunity to participate.  We will no longer accept government officials forcing their decisions about our lives without being involved in the process.

The model Local Open Government Directive is intended to be an executive initiated order or directive to the local government under the executive’s legal authority.  An executive leader, such as a mayor, should use this model to adopt a directive for the city to help institutionalize open government principles within the city government.

In partnership with OpenPlans, we are hosting the directive at opengovernmentinitative.org. There, you can view and download the directive and share it with others.

In addition, our friends at the Sunlight Foundation have created a site where you can sign up to show your support for this effort.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be reaching out to government officials to build support for the directive and to implement the directive in local governments.

We encourage you to show your support for the directive and to reach out to your elected officials to ask what they’re doing to promote open government and to include the public, to include you, in your government’s processes.  Together, we can make our government more transparent, participatory, collaborative, and accountable.  Remember, we’re building our government; that means we all have the responsibility to be informed and to participate.  Government officials have to do their part, and we have to do ours for open government efforts to be successful and for government services to work.

If you’re interested in participating in the open government movement, please join our Open Government Initiative group.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the people I’ve been fortunate to work with through CityCamp Colorado and the Open Government Directive.  Kevin, Brian, Sean, Michele, Alissa, Nicole, Phil Ashlock, and many others are some of the most motivated, hard-working, brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

Cheers to the future of our government!