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Open Government Philadelphia: an initiative and policy paper from Councilman Bill Green

Read the councilman's broader 10-point Open Government policy paper, largely calling on technology and the community here.

After a failed bid for a paperless government initiative last year, Councilman Bill Green has redoubled the proposal into a broader 10-point Open Government policy paper, largely calling on technology and the community here.
Green’s announcement of the proposal came during the Philly Tech Week One Great Idea event from the Philadelphia Media Network, though he has continued hitting the talking point recently, a week before the City Council Democratic primary.
“We could become the first paperless and most open city government in the country,” Green said at the event. “We have the opportunity to leapfrog everyone else in five years if we start now.”
In the 17-page document, Green makes 10 recommendations, most of which he proposes to move forward himself with related legislation, though the local technology community is heavily sourced and credited. Download the full paper here [PDF].
Green says between $150-$200 million can be saved in the paperless government move alone, something Sacramento was most recently trumpeting.
Below, find his 10 recommendations and what they could mean for the future of Philadelphia governance, in addition to a related presentation his office shared.

In the proposal, Green makes the following 10 recommendations:

  1. Recommendation 1: Enact a Comprehensive Open Data Policy — Green pledges to introduce legislation “that will require all City departments to post whatever electronic data sets they have on a central ‘data warehouse’ website freely available to the public in searchable and malleable formats.’ The paper does reference the recently unveiled, though this specific proposal is an overall bolstering of his paperless government push. “In a truly open government, every piece of information — like permits or contracts — come in as a field, not in paper forms,” he said.
  2. Recommendation 2: Provide Easy Access to Legislative Voting Records — The paper reads that  “Council should consider building upon the new ‘City Council Legislation Digest’ tool,which was created [in March at the] Philly Data Camp,’ and provides RSS and email feeds of votes and outcomes.
  3. Recommendation 3: Post the City’s Check Registry Online — Green pledges to “introduce legislation requiring the City of Philadelphia to follow Cook County’s lead byposting its check registry online, listing all non-payroll expenditures and identifying thepurpose and recipient of each outlay.”
  4. Recommendation 4: Enhance Functionality/Substance of Contracting Websites: The paper reads that: “the City’s websites in general – and our bid-letting interface specifically – should exemplify innovation and user-friendliness, opening the door to the investment opportunities available within the City, not frustrating potential users by being stuck in the past.” City interim CTO Tommy Jones has placed the long-awaited overhaul of Phila.Gov as among his top three priorities.
  5. Recommendation 5: Post Financial Disclosure Statements Online — The paper reads that Green “will introduce legislation requiring the Records Department to post… [financial, investment and spending] disclosure statements [from all ‘decision-making city leaders] online – something the state has done for years.”
  6. Recommendation 6: Create an Online Directory of Boards and Commissions — The paper reads that Green is “introducing legislation requiring the City to publish online [detailed] information about every board, commission, and quasi-governmental entity exercising municipal functions,” including members, funding, mission, meetings and goals.
  7. Recommendation 7: Adopt Outcome-Based Budgeting — The paper says that Green has “introduced legislation [search bills 100490, 100491, and 100492] that would require… City departments …to state clearly what they will deliver for the funds appropriated for each individual program, not for the department as a whole. This will enable us to set a measure of expected productivity enhancements year after year, even for programs that are working well.”
  8. Recommendation 8: Improve Public Access to Budget Information — The paper says that Green is “introducing legislation that will improve online access to the City’s operating budget… [by mandating that each] operating department would be required to include detailed information about its budget on its departmental website so the public knows what the department does with its funds and how much particular services cost
    to perform. Further to the goals of transparency and public access, this information must be released in search-able, index-able, and download-able formats (e.g., Excel, CSV, ZIP) that allow for data-mining.”
  9. Recommendation 9: Increase Access to Public Alerts — The paper says that Green “will introduce legislation requiring the City to create a program that allows citizens to sign up for various email alerts on matters of interest,” across departments.
  10. Recommendation 10: Sponsor an Annual Apps Competition — The paper reads on Green’s behalf that “once Philadelphia has a sizable data warehouse online, I will introduce legislation appropriating sufficient funds for City Council to sponsor an apps contest and commit to holding it annually.” Various partners, Technically Philly included, have been involved in plans around this matter.

Open Gov Phila — Final Slides
Also during the One Great Idea event, Green noted that the late 2009 announcement that the City of Philadelphia had purchased what was left of the Wireless Philadelphia infrastructure was an opportunity for innovation.
“What if we had complete connectivity here?” he asked. “The city could use its mobile workforce to get data from the field, like health inspectors, social workers and other service providers.”
In announcing the Open Government Philadelphia initiative, Green, who introduced a resolution formerly naming the last six days of April as Philly Tech Week, commended the technology community.
“Philly Tech Week and the people it engages are showcasing many of the tenets and features of Open Government: transparency, improved decision-making, entrepreneurship, business development, and really cool ideas that engage citizens,” he said.  “It’s time we took the best practices from this future-leaning sector of our local economy and brought them to city government.  Citizens deserve no less and our future as a growing, vibrant city depends on it.”

Companies: City of Philadelphia
Series: Transparencity

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