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Exploring Government Transparency

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While at the Oregon Library Association conference in Salem yesterday, I attended a session on government transparency in Oregon. This included a presentation about the Oregon Attorney General’s Government Transparency Initiative, courtesy of the Department of Justice’s new Government Transparency Counsel, Michael Kron, and Communications and Policy Director, Tony Green. In particular they spoke about the current proposed public records legislative amendments in Senate Bill 41, which among other things significantly reduces the number of exemptions allowing records to be kept secret, creates clear public records request deadlines, and lowers or eliminates request fees. For more background, check out the 2010 Government Transparency Report and other resources found on the Government Transparency Initiative site.

Other interesting state government public data websites were presented at this session by Sean McSpaden, Deputy State CIO. His department, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, was directed by a 2009 Oregon legislative measure to create an Oregon Transparency Website. From the site’s FAQ:

“The Oregon Transparency Web site contains information about each state agency, including but not limited to:

  • Annual state agency revenues
  • Annual state agency expenditures
  • Annual state agency human resources expenses, including compensation
  • Annual state agency tax expenditures
  • State agency contracting and subcontracting information
  • Pie charts showing primary revenue sources for each agency
  • Descriptions of the mission, function and program categories of each agency
  • Copies of audit reports issued by the Secretary of State
  • Additional information will be added when it is available.”

Another interesting resource discussed was the Opening Oregon’s Data (or, as it is also known by its easily remembered URL, data.oregon.gov) site. Here you can manipulate state government data to create your own charts, graphs, and so on. From the website:

“Oregonians want more access to data collected and stored by Oregon’s state and local government agencies. In response, Oregon launched the Data.Oregon.gov website to provide Oregonians the ability to view, search, sort, filter, download or build applications to access public data….Never before have we offered so much flexibility. Now you can create graphs, maps, and calendars on the fly. Filter, group and sort the data any way YOU like it. You can even embed it in your blog or website with live updates. If you write your own code, check out the open APIs for every dataset.”

Finally, the attractive Oregon Explorer website was thrown in to the presentation for good measure: a web-based natural resources digital library with links to portals and tools galore. The library integrates many kinds of data from state and federal agencies, local governments, university scientists, and citizens.

So go ahead: explore!