Dear Friend of Open Government:
As the New Year approaches, the D.C. Open Government Coalition (DCOGC) would like to thank you for your support and commitment to enhancing the public’s access to government information and ensuring the transparency of the District of Columbia government. This past year, once again, has been a very exciting and productive time for us.
Since we organized in 2009, DCOGC has consistently made a difference by influencing D.C. government law, policy and procedures. This year has perhaps been our most active and successful year in advocating for a more open government in the District and beyond. In October, we co-hosted the annual Freedom of Information Summit convened by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, the umbrella group for state and regional open government groups like the DCOGC. The two-day Summit featured sessions on access to law enforcement information, proactive disclosures and options for requesters who have been denied information. A particular highlight for us was the keynote session that looked at "FOIA at 50" and featured DCOGC Founding President Tom Susman and longtime FOIA supporter Ralph Nader. Chuck Lewis, an investigative journalist who founded the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, delivered keynote remarks.
But locally is where we make our most difference, and this year was no exception. Here are a few highlights:
- The Coalition testified before D.C. Council committees regarding the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs's failure to place building permits online, as required by law; and against a provision of a bill that would have exempted Advisory Neighborhood Commissions from the D.C. FOIA. The Coalition also argued that ANCs should be subject to the District’s Open Meetings Act. The FOIA exemption was dropped from the bill passed on first reading December 2.
- Our Legal Committee celebrated exceptional results in court and administrative complaints this past year. In June, the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld open government principles in deciding the case of Vining v. D.C. Council where we contributed an amicus brief and joined in the argument. The Court agreed with us that the D.C. Council could not claim exemption from the D.C. public records law under a vague "speech and debate" clause buried in D.C. Code.
- And we used our research into compliance with the D.C. Open Meetings Act to craft complaints against three public bodies with significant records of ignoring the law. The Office of Open Government sustained all of our complaints and required changes at the D.C. Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, the D.C. Rental Housing Commission and the Board of Medicine. In reviewing our work the past year, we take particular pride in leading an effort with our open government colleagues in Virginia and Maryland to question the closed-door aspects of the proposed interstate compact to create the new Metro safety board mentioned above. The proposal came to the Council with weak and unenforceable public access provisions, and the Coalition argued that the new compact should require the board to follow the federal FOIA and open meetings statutes and permit individuals denied access to sue in federal court. The Council generally agreed and a bill revised as we suggested has passed first reading in the Council. (It will go before the Maryland and Virginia legislatures early next year.) Working with our colleagues in our adjoining states, we will continue our vigilance on this issue.
Finally, we had our most successful D.C. Open Government Summit yet, our fifth consecutive local community event in concert with national Sunshine Week in March. D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser joined us and discussed open government issues during her first full year in office and what might lie ahead. We also assembled experts to assess a key piece of legislation also affecting transparency in the District, the “Strengthening Transparency and Open Access to Government Amendment Act of 2016.” Members of the DCOGC Board worked closely with Council staff and the D.C. Office of Open Government in drafting this legislation, which was introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso and Mary Cheh early in 2016.
These examples reflect just a sampling of our work and accomplishments during the past year. We are confident that 2017 will be another challenging and productive year. But our board consists of all volunteers with their own full-time day jobs, and we find ourselves drawn into more and more open government challenges and opportunities that stretch our resources each year.
The D.C. Open Government Coalition also takes no dues — we rely solely on the generosity of people like you. Any amount you would contribute would go directly to strengthening what we do. Please consider supporting us by making a year-end donation at http://www.dcogc.org/node/397 or via check to DCOGC, P.O. Box 73771 Washington, DC 20056.
On behalf of the Coalition, thank you for your support. Together, we can continue bringing more transparency, accountability and citizen engagement to the District of Columbia government. Wishing you a happy holiday season and enjoyable New Year!
With best regards,
President, D.C. Open Government Coalition
The D.C. Open Government Coalition is exempt from federal income tax as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our EIN is 26-4520540.