The sentencing this week of Renee Bowman, the woman convicted of abusing three foster daughters and killing two of them all while continuing to receive subsidies from the District, has turned a spotlight on the secrecy in which the foster care and adoption systems operate. The Washington Post editorial board, Harry Jaffe in the Washington Examiner, and Matt Fraidin, a UDC law professor with an interest in opening up foster care hearings, have all addressed the issue and called for
In the wake of the investigation surrounding the attempted donation of a surplus D.C. fire truck to a community in the Dominican Republic, Councilmember Mary Cheh has introduced legislation that would require greater tracking of the District's surplus property in order to keep other agencies and the public informed about what is available. WTOP (AP)
Bill Turque, the Washington Post's education reporter, notes in his D.C. Schools Insider blog that data supporting a program that pays D.C. school kids for good behavior and grades has not been forthcoming, even though the program is now running short of cash and requesting additional funding from the D.C. Council. In September, Turque filed a FOIA request seeking information about the results of the Capital Gains program, which pays children for attendance, behavior and good grades. The FOIA request has not yet received a response; officials with D.C. Schools say that a researcher with Harvard University, which is also providing funding for the program, is analyzing the results, but there's no indication of when his findings will be made public. D.C. Schools Insider
The Washington City Paper's Jason Cherkis reported on his efforts to obtain data from the D.C. Department of Corrections regarding the number of incidents in which inmates have been stabbed in the D.C. Jail. Over the course of a few weeks, the department replied that they were collecting the data; Cherkis wondered why producing this type of information would take so long. As he reports,
D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh's new website includes links to committee hearing testimony, providing public access to the statements submitted by witnesses in front of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment. To review posted testimony, go to Committee Hearings, then select the title of the hearing. Susie's Budget & Policy Corner
The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, which works to expose corruption in order to achieve a more accountable, open and ethical federal government, has praised D.C.'s Whistleblower Protection Amendment Act of 2009. The organization notes that with passage of the law, D.C. will have some of the strongest whistleblower protections in the U.S. Project on Government Oversight. More details on the new provisions under the Act can be found at the Whistleblowers Protection Blog.
Each year, the D.C. Council reviews the organization and performance of executive agencies in anticipation of budget discussions for the coming year. In preparation for these oversight hearings, the Council requests that agencies respond to questionnaires relating to personnel, spending and performance for the Council's review. The Council has made the agencies' responses to these requests available on its website at http://dccouncil.us/agencyperformanceoversighthearingquestionsandanswers.
The Examiner used records obtained from the District's Department of Health (as well as those of neighboring communities) to evaluate the general health and safety of restaurant dining in the D.C. area. The article discusses egregious violators and notes that despite some closings, the vast majority of restaurants cited for violations during inspections were permitted to remain open. Examiner
According to a survey released by Good Jobs First in January, the District of Columbia website established to make federal Recovery Act spending transparent is one of the worst in the country. All fifty states and the District established such sites to track the more than $200 billion in federal stimulus funding that is flowing through state and local governments to communities, organizations and individuals.
In reporting a story on a District couple's attempts to get their adopted son covered by the mother's D.C. Public Schools health insurance, reporter Amanda Hess from the City Paper asked to take a look at the District government's policies regarding insuring adopted children. She notes that:
Although such a policy is hardly sensitive information, and although it should be readily attainable by a DCHR public affairs officer, DCHR refused to answer my questions until I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request. I submitted the FOIA on Feb. 12, and DCHR took its time getting back to me—it took the agency fifteen business days, the maximum allowed, to cough up the policy.
Following its own investigation, the D.C. Council has hired private attorney Robert P. Trout to look into the Department of Parks & Recreation contracts that were routed through the D.C. Housing Authority last fall. The Council held hearings and roundtables, and questioned administration officials as well as some of the private interests who were involved -- now they seek to have an outside party review the evidence and produce a report examining how and why the contracts were routed to avoid Council review. Washington City Paper; D.C. Wire
Jonetta Rose Barras observed that although this follows on the heels of the release of the Bennett report, which had been commissioned by the Council to look into its own earmarks process, it is not a parallel assignment: Trout will not likely be conducting his own fact-finding, but will rather be evaluating evidence already collected by the Council. Examiner
The Washington Post highlighted the relationship between Mayor Adrian Fenty and two of the key outside players in the parks contracting matter, noting the extent to which they have benefitted since his election. Washington Post
The website GovFresh, which "works to inspire government-citizen collaboration and build a more engaged democracy," has highlighted the work of two District employees recently in its Gov 2.0 Hero column.
The District's latest compedium of data about city services was released on Friday, February 19th, by the Office of Planning. The 2009 INDICES - A Statistical Index of District of Columbia Government Services includes data from 2005-2008, and is available online here. The publication is released every two years. Susie's Budget & Policy Corner
In its City Desk blog recapping the weekend's news, the City Paper noted that Mayor Adrian Fenty would likely have taken a different, more constituent-focused stance on snow removal as the councilmember he once was than he has as Mayor. The posting then went on to observe that Mayor Fenty has also exhibited much less transparency in his administration than he operated under as a member of the Council. Washington City Paper
The D.C. Schools central offices are in the process of moving to a new, smaller location, and are purging records as part of the move. DCPS has hired two document management firms to help go through the agency's records, scanning some before shredding them, and simply disposing of others. The new office has 40 percent less storage space than before. DCPS officials assured the Washington Post's Bill Turque that the process was being conducted in accordance with the District's Office of the Public Records Administrator guidelines. D.C. Schools Insider