Reinvent Albany works for open, accountable New York State government.
New York State’s Open NY initiative published its third report on the progress of the open data portal earlier this month. Since its launch in March 2013, state agencies have uploaded 957 data sets to Open NY, which won accolades from the Center for Data Innovation over the summer. The report highlights Open NY’s efforts to engage the open data community with contests for using open data to solve health care problems and meet local community needs.
We are pleased that, for the third consecutive quarter, the Open NY team has updated New Yorkers on the progress they’ve made. Uploading hundreds of data sets and explaining the state of the open data initiative is no small feat, and we’re excited to see this commitment from the Open NY team.
Action taken to discourage further attempts to raid funds, and ensure due public process for future projects
NEW YORK – October 28, 2014 – Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and Environmental Advocates of New York have filed a lawsuit against New York State officials, seeking to ensure that urgently needed federal Clean Water Act funds will not be illegally used to fund the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project or for other ineligible projects in the future.
The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Albany County by Pace Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic, representing the groups. It names New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Facilities Corporation, Thruway Authority and Public Authorities Control Board, as well as approximately eighteen individuals in their capacities as board members and executives of these agencies.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate New York State’s proposal to apply $511 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) for bridge construction projects that include dredging, pile driving and demolition. Governor Cuomo rushed his plan through with virtually no oversight from the public and no green light from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides most of this funding to the states in the form of annual capitalization grants. In a September 16, 2014 letter, EPA rejected the vast majority of this loan – $482 million of the total. The legal action seeks a court order that will enforce EPA’s decision and discourage any further attempt to divert clean water funds for improper purposes.
Today, Reinvent Albany provided the following testimony to the New York City Council’s Committee on Technology as part of a hearing on the continued implementation and oversight of the Open Data Law of 2012. Video of the hearing is here, our full testimony is here, and our report on Year Three of the NYC Open Data Law is available here.
Overall, we are excited about the progress of the Open Data Law, which is still in its early days. We believe the City’s open data efforts are robust, healthy, and improving. The implementation of the Open Data Law is fundamentally strong, though much work remains. First, here’s what’s working:
We especially applaud DOITT for its sincere and energetic efforts to get agency data published. DOITT is clearly meeting the spirit of the Open Data Law, and their staff has strived to make it work.
The Open Data Law calls for a new way for government to share information with the public, going forward, forever. One way to think about it is that we are in year three of a permanent change lasting for centuries. Every year, the City needs to get a bit better at Open Data – and fortunately, we have the resources and commitment to succeed.
In the next year, we hope the de Blasio administration advances open data in four key ways:
First, the Mayor’s Office of Operations needs to get agencies to put the most frequently FOILed and requested data on the Open Data Portal. Most agen- cies still do not understand that the Open Data Law is intended to help them reduce FOIL requests, reduce 311 requests for information, and help them get information to the public at a lower cost with less hassle.
Second, DOITT needs to create a public feedback process for the Open Data Portal which results in more and better city data being put online. When data errors are discovered and reported by the public, the responsible agency should correct those problems. DOITT should ensure that the public can track the progress of those corrections.
Third, the severe problems with the search function of the Open Data Portal have to be completely fixed. Despite repeated, emphatic, requests from the Transparency Working Group and other many open data stakeholders, it took DOITT more than two years to correct crippling flaws with the search function – flaws that severely reduced the usefulness of the Open Data Platform, and undoubtedly kept people from using the data on it. This kind of funda- mental usability problem, cannot be repeated, and cannot take so long to fix in the future.
Four, DOITT needs to clearly show the status of data sets to be published, or which have been delayed or removed from the open data plan. Overall, it’s hard for the public to tell if the City is meeting its own data release targets. For example, a dataset essentially disappears from view if it was scheduled for release in the 2013 plan, delayed, and then not included in the 2014 plan.
DOITT and City Hall are easily capable of achieving these goals, and we look forward to assessing their progress at the 2015 oversight hearing.