Open Government Executive Directive

Printable PDF of the Model Local Open Government Directive with Footnotes
Printable PDF of the Model Local Open Government Directive with Comments in Each Section

Version 1
January 24, 2011

[City]
Local Open Government Directive

Introduction

The [City] is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.  City officials will work together and with the public to ensure open and effective government as well as public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, collaboration, and accountability.

This memorandum requires [City] departments and agencies to take the following steps to achieve the goal of creating a more open government:

  1. Publish Government Information Online

    To increase accountability, promote informed public participation, and create economic development opportunities, each [City Department][1] shall expand access to information by making it available online in open formats that facilitate access to and reuse of information.

    1. Online Publication: [City Departments] shall publish information (such as budget information, crime and health statistics, contracts with private firms, policies and procedures, and data or information frequently requested under [Open Records Act][2]) online (in addition to any other planned or mandated publication methods) and preserve and maintain electronic records.  Data and records shall be preserved and maintained consistent with the [Open Records Act] and other applicable law and policy.
    2. Timing and Consistency: Timely and consistent publication of information is an essential component of open government.  As such, [City Departments] shall develop schedules for making information available to the public and indicating when information is updated.[3]
    3. Presumption of Openness: With respect to information, the presumption shall be in favor of openness and publication (to the extent permitted by law and subject to valid privacy, confidentiality, security, or other restrictions).  Where practicable, [City Departments] shall publish all data that is not subject to valid privacy, security, or privilege limitations.[4][5]
    4. Online and Open: [City Departments] should publish information online and, when practicable, in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, sorted, searched, and reused by commonly used Web search applications and commonly used software.[6]
    5. Open Government Web Page: Within [45] days, the [City] shall establish a common Web page that will serve as the source for citywide and departmental activities related to this Local Open Government Directive.
    6. Open Data Catalog: Within [60] days, each [City Department] shall create a catalog of its public information.  The catalog will be accessible through the city’s Open Government Web page.  The catalog will indicate:
      1. If the information is publicly-accessible;
      2. The date of when the information was made publicly-accessible;
      3. The date the information was last updated;
      4. If the information is from a primary source or has been aggregated or modified;  and
      5. If the information is restricted by any license or privacy restrictions.
    7. High-Value Data Sets: Within [75] days, each [City Department] shall identify and publish online, in an open format, at least three high-value data sets or other types of previously non-publicly accessible information.[7]
    8. Public Feedback: The Open Government Web page will include a mechanism for the public to:
      1. Give feedback on and assess the quality of published information; and
      2. Provide input about which information to prioritize for publication.
    9. Response to Public Feedback: Each [City Department] shall respond to public feedback received through the Open Government Web page on a regular, timely basis.  Responses shall include descriptions of actions taken or reasons for not taking action based on public input.
    10. Publication of Open Records Requests: Each [City Department] shall publish each [Open Records Act] request in an open format on the Open Government Web page, unless the request is subject to valid privacy, security, or privilege limitations.  The name of the requester will remain anonymous unless otherwise indicated by the requester.  If a request is subject to limitation, the [City Department] should release a redacted version of the request that also discloses the nature of the request.   Each open records request shall be listed in conjunction with the status of the request and whether such request has been fulfilled.  Where practicable, the requested information should be released to the public in an open format and published on the Open Government Web page.[8]
    11. Licenses: The city shall not assert any copyright, patent, trademark, or other restriction on government information.  However, such restrictions may be applied to information shared by the city that was compiled or modified by non-governmental entities or individuals.[9]
  2. Create and Institutionalize a Culture of Open Government

    To support open government and government accountability the [City] will expand and create opportunities for citizen participation and collaboration.[10][11]

    1. Open Government Plans: Within 120 days, each the [City] shall develop and publish an Open Government Plan that will describe how the each department will enhance and develop transparency, public participation, and collaboration.[12]
      1. Transparency: The Open Government Plan will describe steps the city will take to conduct its work more openly and publish its information online. The plan will describe how the city is currently meeting its legal information dissemination obligations under [Open Records Act] and [State Sunshine Act] and how the city plans to create more access to information and opportunities for public participation.  This information should include ordinances and regulations, policies, legislative records, budget information, geographic data, crime statistics, public health statistics, and other public records and data.
      2. Participation: To create more informed and effective policies, the [City] shall enhance and expand opportunities for the public to participate throughout [City Departments’] decision-making processes. The Open Government Plan will include descriptions of:
        1. Online access to proposed rules, ordinances, and other regulations;
        2. Online access to information and resources for the public to be properly informed (such as frequently asked questions, city officials’ and department contact information, and other supportive content);
        3. Opportunities for the public to comment through the Web on any proposed rule, ordinance, or other regulation;
        4. Methods of identifying stakeholders and other affected parties and inviting their participation;
        5. Proposed changes to internal management and administrative policies to improve participation;
        6. Links to appropriate websites where the public can engage in the city’s existing participatory processes; and
        7. Proposals for new feedback mechanisms, including innovative tools and practices that create new and more accessible methods for public participation.

        To the goal of encouraging public participation, rules, ordinances, and other regulations shall be based, to the extent feasible and consistent with law, on the open exchange of information and perspectives among other government officials, experts in relevant disciplines, affected stakeholders in the private sector, and the public as a whole.

      3. Collaboration: The Open Government Plan will describe steps the [City] will take to enhance and expand its practices to further cooperation among city departments, other governmental agencies, the public, and non-profit and private entities in fulfilling the city’s obligations. The plan will include specific details about:
        1. Proposed changes to internal management and administrative policies to improve collaboration;
        2. Proposals to use technology platforms to improve collaboration among city employees and the public;
        3. Descriptions of and links to appropriate websites where the public can learn about existing collaboration efforts; and
        4. Innovative methods, such as prizes and competitions, to obtain ideas from and to increase collaboration with those in the private sector, non-profit, and academic communities.
    2. Evaluation: The [City's] progress towards meeting this Open Government Directive will be evaluated six (6) months after implementation, one (1) year after implementation, and each subsequent year.  The city shall release the evaluation on the Open Government Web page or create an Open Government Dashboard that will provide the public with both graphic and narrative evaluation information.  The evaluation will indicate if the city has not satisfied, partially satisfied, or fully satisfied the following criteria:
      1. Experts and other stakeholders were consulted when creating the Open Government Plan;
      2. The public was involved in developing the Open Government Plan;
      3. The Open Government Plan includes all of the elements required in the Open Government Directive;
      4. The city has established processes and a timeline for publishing information and data sets online;
      5. The city has established processes and a timeline for making underlying, raw data available online;
      6. The city has effectively promoted its open government efforts to the public;
      7. The city has effectively promoted its open government efforts to private sector stakeholders;
      8. The city has established efficient public feedback mechanisms;
      9. The city has reviewed, responded to, and incorporated public feedback; and
      10. The city has established processes to revise its Open Government Plan to reflect changing public needs and new technologies.
    3. Working Group: Within 45 days, the [Mayor] and [City Auditor] shall establish a working group that focuses on transparency, accountability, public participation, and collaboration within the [City] government.  This group, with senior level representation from program and management offices throughout the [City], will serve several critical functions, including:
      1. Transparency Forum: The working group will provide a forum to share best practices on innovative ideas to promote transparency, including system and process solutions for information collection, aggregation, validation, and dissemination; and
      2. Participation and Collaboration Forum: The working group will provide a forum to share best practices on innovative ideas to promote participation and collaboration, including how to experiment with new technologies, take advantage of the expertise and insight of people both inside and outside the [City] government, and form high impact collaborations with researchers, the private sector, and the public.
      3. Public Input Forum: The working group will provide a forum for developing resolutions to issues described through the public feedback mechanisms of the Open Government Web page.
    4. Incentives: Within 90 days, the [City Treasurer] will issue, through separate guidance or as part of any planned comprehensive management guidance, a framework for how the [City] can use challenges, prizes, and other incentive-backed strategies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government.[13]
  3. Create an Enabling Policy Framework for Open Government

    Emerging technologies open new forms of communication between government and the public.  Achieving a more open government will require the various professional disciplines within the government (such as policy, legal, procurement, finance, and technology operations) to work together to define and develop open government solutions.  Policies should be regularly reviewed and revised to realize the potential of technology for open government.

    1. Identification of Barriers, Guidance, and Revisions: Within 120 days, the [City Attorney], in consultation with the [City’s] [Chief Information Officer], will review existing [City] policies to identify impediments to open government and to the use of new technologies and, where necessary, issue clarifying guidance and/or propose revisions to such policies, to promote greater openness in government.[14]
    2. Publication of Guidance and Proposed Policy Changes: Any clarifying guidance and/or proposed policies related to this Open Government Directive will be available through the city’s Open Government Web page.

[1]Depending on the organization of the local government, [city departments] will be replaced with the name of the city, such as the City of Castle Rock, or something like “all city departments”, such as all Castle Rock city departments.

[2][State Open Record’s Act] should be replaced with the applicable open records law, such as the Colorado Open Records Act.

[3]The timely and consistent publication of government information is of critical importance to the use of that information.  Adherence to a publication schedule is critical to the success of this open government mandate.  It is not enough to simply publish information without managing that information.  Therefore, it is important that the mayor or another executive leader or leaders to review the resources necessary to manage the on-going publication effort, but the directive should not eliminate the schedule as part of a publication plan.

[4]Paragraph c is intended to embody the underlying intent of Freedom of Information/Open Records laws in that information held and maintained by the government is public information.  As such, the default setting must be to release information and publication should only be withheld if a valid privacy, security, or privilege exists.  A valid privacy, security, or privilege concerns include, but are not limited to, personal identifying information, critical infrastructure information, information related to an on-going criminal investigation, or any publication that may breach an individual or groups legal rights.  If the local government chooses to withhold information from publication that government entity should provide the public with a reasonably detailed explanation for withholding the information.  Such explanation should be created to foster trust and instill transparency in the publication process.  Furthermore, in order to provide consistent application the city’s council should provide detailed guidelines regarding the limited publication exemptions.

[5]One of the greatest strains on government resources is compliance with open records requests.  As such, local governments should use the open government directive as an opportunity to preemptively publish government information before an open records request is received.  Furthermore, the local government should publish information if such information is frequently requests or if the information is a data set.

[6]Paragraph d is intended to result in the maximum use of government information.  Governments must publish information that is machine-readable as well as human-readable.  Although maximum openness is achieved through publication in open formats, city’s should take steps to publish what information they have in whatever format they have and then take step to convert what information into open formats.

[7]Paragraphs e-g set a time frame for publication of government information.  A timetable is extremely important and should be included in the directive.  The absence of a timetable will seriously undermine the success of any open government effort.  Therefore, a firm deadline should be set forth in the directive.

[8]Government information includes data sets collected and maintained by the local government.   Dissemination of these data sets is as important as all other forms of publication.  Therefore, local government should actively release this data to the public for use and re-use.

It is again critical that data be released in an open format that is machine readable and accessible.

[9]Unlike US Federal Government information, state and local government information is not in public domain as a matter of law unless the state or local law dictates otherwise.  Some local governments can and do exercise copy, trade, and intellectual property rights over government information.  This practice significantly impacts the use of government information by the public and hinders open government efforts.  Local governments should, therefore, release all government information free of any such right and should not exercise these rights after release.  However, the city may reserve the right to enforce reasonable privacy, security, and privilege rights on government information.  Finally, if license or restrictions are asserted then the license and restriction should be minimally restrictive so that they do not significantly impugn the use and derivative use of the information.

[10]This section is intended to institutionalize open government within city government.  As such, the city should take substantial steps to create detailed open government plans that will help the public understand how the city will implement and operate a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government.

[11]Each paragraph of this section creates a firm timetable for development and implementation of the open government plan.  A timetable is of critical importance and will allow the public and senior leadership to track the progress of the open government plan.  Although, the model directive sets forth a specific timeline, the city should create a timetable that is feasible for that city.  However, the timeline must be included in the directive in order to be successful.

[12]Paragraphs b-d a set forth the key core principles of open government; transparency, participation, and collaboration.  These principles are viewed as the cornerstone of sound open government policy by the open government community. Therefore, the directive should include these principles as key issues to be address in the city’s open government plan or plans.

[14]Although legal and policy barrier will hinder progress unless addressed, cultural change will also be necessary to encourage greater openness and innovation in government.  City leaders should also take steps to promote and encourage cultural change in government.

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