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Oct. 4, 2013 8:30 am

‘We want to make MD a very open data state’: Sen. Bill Ferguson

His remarks were in response to a larger investigative report undertaken by FOX45 on how difficult it is to obtain information about government expenditures and other data from the state government.

State Sen. Bill Ferguson. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Bill Ferguson, a Maryland state senator representing District 46 in Baltimore city, told FOX45 television news, “We want to make Maryland a very open data state.”

His remarks were in response to a larger investigative report undertaken by FOX45 on how difficult it is to obtain information about government expenditures and other data from the state government. As FOX45 notes: “During attempts by FOX45 to get basic information about topics such as how tax dollars are being spent, government officials said the information was either too costly to produce or simply secret.”

In May we reported that the state of Maryland received a letter-grade of “F” for being ranked 46th among the states in public access to information — the State Integrity Investigation said one of the state’s “most significant transparency challenges is a lack of substantive or easy access to government information.”

The new investigative report from FOX45 appears to bear that out. What’s more, requests for information from the state are often costly to the parties seeking the data:

When FOX45 asked the Attorney General’s office for a list of public information requests received in the past two years and how much it charged to fulfill them, the request came with a $2,500 price tag just to find out.

Maryland has made some strides toward opening up their collection of state government data. Data.Maryland.gov, the first statewide open data portal, launched on May 8 with 237 datasets. To date, there are now 278 datasets on the portal.

According to FOX45, Ferguson is planning to introduce legislation during the 2014 Maryland General Assembly to “strengthen the state’s public information law” and, perhaps, make state data easier to access.

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City, Grist.org, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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