Civic News

Bowser official says open gov improvements are in the works

Rashad Young has a track record of encouraging accountability in Alexandria, where he currently serves as city manager. Going into the new year, here's an update on the status of several D.C. open gov initiatives.

Rashad Young, the city manager in Alexandria, will join Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser's administration as D.C.'s city administrator. (Photo by Flickr user ICMA Photos, used under a Creative Commons license)

Open government advocates in D.C. have been hoping Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser’s administration would herald a new era for government transparency measures.
Her pick for city administrator — Rashad M. Young, Alexandria’s current city manager — indicates she might be on the right track.
Young told DC that two transparency initiatives were already in the works — though he was careful to add that the District has had a “really strong push towards open governance already.”
First, he wants to open up the budgetary process and allow constituents to weigh in before the city’s yearly tab is finalized, by “using technologies that allow for web-based interactions and feedback,” he said.
Young also said the administration plans to push for stronger accountability by publishing performance data in a more consistent, user-friendly manner. He wants agencies to be able to create customized reports focused on specific issues of interest to the public.
Young has already proved himself receptive to the open government ethos. In Alexandria, Young oversaw the rollout of Call.Click.Connect., a streamlined channel for constituents to file requests destined for a range of different agencies.
He also aimed to prioritize efficiency in the face of budgetary constraints, creating an Office of Performance and Accountability and hiring a Chief Performance Officer.
“The new budget philosophy that Rashad led … is to focus on obtaining outcomes rather than retaining programs for the sake of programs,” said Craig Fifer, Alexandria’s director of communications.


Open gov advocates who have voiced an extensive list of transparency proposals to both the current and incoming administration, welcomed the message.
D.C. Open Government Coalition President Kevin Goldberg said improving the transparency of budgeting is timely and important. “We spend more and more money in development now than we have in a long time in D.C.,” he said. “If you asked a lot of people what they want to know about, it’s how is the government spending my money?”
Goldberg also warned that transparency goes beyond making public data available through computer-accessible files, as the web is not a readily accessible or intuitive platform for a number of constituents. “More technology alone won’t fix the problem,” he said.
Emily Shaw, a policy researcher at the Sunlight Foundation, also stressed that accountability data should not only be opened up but also tracked as it is delivered to users. 
The administration should maintain a record of requests and comments from the public, she said: “Some kind of way of demonstrating that feedback has been incorporated.”
This is something the foundation has pushed for in response to the streamlined website for Freedom of Information Act requests launched under Mayor Vincent Gray.
For more information on some of the other transparency measures supported by local open gov activists, you can read:

Companies: D.C. Open Government Coalition / Sunlight Foundation

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