Monday, October 31, 2016

Adding To Roch's Pile: Part 16

Throughout my series, Adding to Roch's Pile,  I've documented the efforts by myself and others to bring open and honest governance to Greensboro. I've also made some mistakes and chased a few bad leads. But a few days ago I was surprised to learn that people outside of Greensboro have also been working to do the same.

I've mentioned the Greensboro Open Records Project before and submitted public information request #6116 to learn more about the project. In going over the contracts sent to me by the City of Greensboro I learned that the Open Records Project was supposed to begin in June of 2016, 10 weeks after the signing of the contracts with the vendor, Socrata.

But the Greensboro Open Records Project did not launch until October 20, 2016. I decided to find out why so when I received a reply to PIRT # 6116, I sent back the following:

Thank you for your reply.
There are some questions I wish someone would answer for me: The contract cited for the project to launch in 10 weeks. But it took over a year.

1. Why the delay?

2.Who asked for the delay?

3. And who approved the delay?
I'm open to suggestions as to how we might redefine the criteria of my original request to make everyone's jobs easier. Any suggestions from anyone receiving this e-mail will be appreciated. I never imagined it would be so huge.

-Billy Jones"

I very quickly received the following e-mail:

"On Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 12:24 PM, Carter, Katherine <> wrote:
Hello Billy,

Below are the answers to your questions provided by the City’s Chief Information Officer.  Please let me know if you need anything else.

1. Why the delay?
We began the Open Data project in the fall of 2015 and launched a pilot (test) site in November.  Our plan was to test the concept while we worked on developing our Open Data program, policy and governance model then move forward with a public launch of the site (10 weeks).  In December 2015 I was notified by Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities program that Greensboro was being considered for acceptance into the program.  This program would provide Greensboro with resources from WWC to assist in developing and validating our open data program as well as provide assistance with a performance measurement program.  I paused the project while we were being evaluated by WWC.  In February 2016 we were visited by the Bloomberg team.  In the March/April timeframe we worked with WWC to develop the project scope and began the engagement with WWC around May/June 2016.  Since that time City staff has been working with WWC, Sunlight Foundation, Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence, and Results for America (all provided free of charge by the WWC program) to develop an Open Data Program based on nationally recognized best practices and standards.  We held the public launch of the Open Data Portal – Open Gate City – on October 20th.

2.Who asked for the delay?
Jane Nickles, CIO

3. And who approved the delay?
Jane Nickles, CIO

Katherine Carter, Public Records Administrator
Communications and Marketing Department
 City of Greensboro"

Like wow, Bloomburg Philanthropies, the Sunlight Foundation, John Hopkins University? Those are some heavy hitters.  And it sounds like very good news.

But if it's really good news then why did Roch Smith jr just publish Crimes & Misdemeanors; this time council secrecy may violate law in which he wrote:
"Video shows how knowledge of a secret vote came to be revealed and the attempts to keep details about it secret."

Not a lot of sunlight there.

And why did Susan Ladd, who usually writes everything the Greensboro City Council wants her to write, pen, City Council needs to get back on track, in which she emphatically states:

"(Here’s a tip: When the public is already convinced there’s a cover-up going on, the last thing you want to do is discuss the matter in a highly questionable closed session where you improperly take a vote to keep a council member from getting information.)"
Something shady...

And why is the City Attorney's office trying to convince the court to drop my public records lawsuit claiming, Lack Of Subject Matter Jurisdiction And Answer. when a week later the public records department still haven't finished answering the public information requests I sued them to get?

Pretty dark there too.

I wonder if the folks at Bloomburg Philanthropies, the Sunlight Foundation, and John Hopkins University are aware of what has been going on for the last year while they have been working and spending  their money to make Greensboro a city that works?

You see, all that Roch, Abner, myself and others ever did was ask questions. But when we didn't get answers we started snooping around instead of assuming everything was as it should be. And the more questions we asked the more they avoided answering us. That's why I'm suing the City of Greensboro and not asking for money-- only answers. But part of the City's defense is that I'm not asking for  money.

It's as if truth doesn't matter as long as they win.

Stay tuned for Adding To Roch's Pile: Part 17, there's no telling who we might hear from.