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Thursday, March 6, 2014

National Sunshine Week

At The Washington Post, Kolby Itkowitz notes that National Sunshine Week begins on March 16.
So, to get us in the holiday spirit, let’s go back to 2009 when, for those of us who joust regularly with government officials for a morsel of information, hope and change still felt fresh and within reach, and the new Obama White House pledged unprecedented transparency.

Some agencies have taken transparency to heart. For others, it’s enemy territory. At the end of the year, the Sunlight Foundation called out the Departments of Commerce and Defense and Veterans Affairs as top offenders. (Education and EPA were the good guys in their review.)
So the White House is putting agencies on notice – publicly.
Todd Park, the administration’s chief technology officer, last week sent agencies a guidance memo (for the first time since 2009) that made public new metrics to use when writing their 2014 Open Government Plans — the third round of action plans intended to build a “presumption of openness” into everyday operations.
By April 1, around 100 departments must submit an outline that includes a “flagship initiative” described in the guidance as “at least one specific new transparency, participation or collaboration initiative that your agency is currently implementing.”
The notice also continues the White House missive that agencies reduce its FOIA backlog by 10 percent annually, a figure the Department of Justice boasts in its annual report that the overall government exceeded in 2012.
But one skeptical open government observer tells the Loop that some success on that front is because “agencies are playing fast and loose with the statistics.” Denying a FOIA request counts toward reducing backlog.