Reinvent Albany works for open, accountable New York State government.
Today, the New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) launched its new portal for government records. City agencies are required to provide copies of their reports and official documents to DORIS. Until recently, most agencies were providing these reports on paper. Now, every agency provides their records to DORIS in a digital format, and DORIS in turn provides these records to New Yorkers. From Mayor de Blasio’s press release:
The portal, currently available in beta version, is a consolidated online hub that stores thousands of reports issued by City agencies—for which the records department serves as the historical repository. This portal is required by the City Charter and makes current government reports available to the public in one centralized location.
There are roughly 12,000 documents on the portal now, with another 7,000 in the upload queue.
We like the portal for two reasons. First, this one-stop web site will make it easier to find narrative reports produced by NYC agencies. This is an essential complement to the Open Data Portal, which only publishes tabular data (i.e. tables, databases, and GIS data).
Second, the development process for the Government Publications Portal is innovative, and the sort of thing we want to see more of. NYC used its own technologists (not consultants) to create this site using open-source technology to avoid re-inventing the wheel. The site is being launched as a beta version, with the expectation that it will be continually improved in response to user feedback. The source code for the web site is publicly available on Github.
Today, a Siena College poll of New York State found that most New Yorkers are aware of Governor Cuomo’s email policy, and Siena’s press release further notes that “by an overwhelming margin, 80-16 percent, voters say state emails should be retained significantly longer than 90 days, including more than three-quarters of voters from every region, party, gender, race, religion, age.” (Emphasis added)
New York State’s email deletion policy is out of step with best practices in the Federal government, in other states like North Carolina and Massachusetts, with good government advocates, and even with the New York State Archives’s own recommendations from 2010, which stated “Purging all emails after a defined time period is not an acceptable retention and disposition strategy.” Today, the New York Times reported on the poll, saying:
In Albany, the email policy has drawn loud criticism in recent weeks from government watchdog groups as well as some lawmakers, who have proposed legislation to stop the email purges. The policy has also reinforced Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s reputation for seeking to tightly control information, a defining trait of his administration.
In addition, the Times noted that good government groups were skeptical of Governor Cuomo’s insistence on subjecting the State Legislature to FOIL as a condition to his retention of emails.