A New Transparency for NY State



A New Transparency for NY State



Use the Explosion in Information Technology to open NY Government

Citizens Union • Common Cause NY
League of Women Voters of NY State
Reinvent Albany • New York Public Interest Research Group

March 2012


We call on Governor Cuomo, legislative leaders Skelos and Silver, Attorney General Schneiderman, and Comptroller DiNapoli to use the explosion in affordable Information Technology to make New York State government vastly more transparent, more responsive, and more accountable.  

We join the State Committee on Open Government’s urgent call for New York State to seize the power of Information Technology to achieve the intent of the Freedom of Information Law. That law says “The people’s right to know is basic to our society.”

Today, we call on our state’s elected leaders to recommit themselves to this fundamental principle, and use the same affordable technology that New Yorkers use every day to shine a light on what our state government is doing and spending. Healthy, well-functioning democracies fully embrace transparency.

New York’s digital information is a form of public wealth. Sharing that digital wealth with the public will help spur the innovation economy, improve public services, and reduce the cost of government by increasing efficiency and reducing corruption.

The good news is that New York has pockets of progress, including the Attorney General’s Accountability/Money and Influence Site and the Comptroller’s Open Book NY. These shed light on political contributions, lobbying and state contracts. Governor Cuomo’s campaign promise to create an Open NY program is encouraging, as is the SAGE Commission’s NY Performs project and the State Senate’s “Open Senate” web page. State agencies are starting to use social media to alert the public to emergencies, public meetings and tax deadlines. The DOH’s Metrix program has an excellent statement of principles extolling the value of opening up digital information, innovation and public collaboration. It should be adopted by all state agencies.

The bad news is that overall, the governor, legislature, NY State agencies and authorities have done a poor job putting information online in easily searchable or useful formats, or employing online maps and social media. The state budget remains very hard to understand or analyze. Despite recent laws, vast areas of state spending by authorities, and via business subsidies remain hard to assess. Unfortunately, the state does not appear to have a plan, process, timeline, or guiding intelligence in place for getting the state’s massive wealth of digital information online, or spreading good ideas within government.

We expect New York to be a leader, not laggard. Abundant, affordable Information Technology — smart phones, iPads, apps, the internet, wifi, social networking, interactive mapping — is transforming the everyday life and work of New Yorkers. We urge our state’s leaders to use these same tools to launch a transparency revolution that will help New York government become more democratic, open, innovative, and provide better services at a lower cost.

Read the full report, A New Transparency for New York State, here. (PDF link)