Sunday, December 18, 2011

What is Transparency?

At the November 22nd meeting of the MCCPTA, Josh Starr, Superintendent of MCPS, posed that question. And he answered it in part by saying, “in a large organization how do you do that?” (see the video here).

Well, Josh, here’s how. The Federal government seems to be able to work towards transparency. The elected Board of Education could take a lesson from what most believe is a pretty large organization. This is from the Sunlight Foundation:

House To Be More Open: OKs Online Publication Standard 
Daniel Schuman
Dec. 16, 2011, 11:49 a.m.

This morning, the House of Representatives took a tremendous step into the 21st century when the Committee on House Administration unanimously adopted "Standards for the Electronic Posting of House and Committee Documents & Data."

Taking effect on January 1, 2012, the resolution instructs the Clerk of the House to maintain a single website where the public can access all House bills, amendments, and resolutions for floor consideration in XML. In addition, committees will be encouraged to post their documents on that site in XML whenever possible -- and searchable PDFs when not -- with the expectation that mandatory publication requirements in XML will soon be imposed. The House will also store video of hearings and markups, and work to implement standards "that require documents to be electronically published in open data formats that are machine readable," thereby enabling transparency and public review.

In a statement, Committee on House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren said “With the adoption of these standards, for the first time, all House bills, resolutions and legislative documents will be available in XML in one centralized location. Providing easy access to legislative information increases constituent feedback and ultimately improves the legislative process. ”

Three cheers to Chairman Dan Lungren, Ranking Member Bob Brady, members of the committee, and its staff for moving this important issue forward. As was discussed at the recent #hackthehouse conference, as well as in our longstanding Open House Project Report (pdf), there's a lot more to do, but this is a major stride towards implementing Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor's pledge to " publicly releasing the House’s legislative data in machine-readable formats." The Senate could do well by following this example, as could legislative support agencies like the Library of Congress and GPO.


  1. Oh please. Like the federal government is transparent. Give me a break.

  2. @ 9:01 Huntingtown, Maryland they sure are!

    Compared to Montgomery County the federal government is an open book when it comes to requesting public documents!
    FOIA's are actually answered in a timely manner. Documents are supplied. The public is able to access public information. That doesn't happen in Montgomery County. Maybe it does in your county, but not here. Come visit and we'll give your a tour of our behind closed door government.


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