Transparency and Inclusion
IMPROVING OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY AND INCLUSION
- Expand Arlington’s Open Data Portal, on a timelier basis and in a form that provides full functionality; meet all 31 Open Data Policy Guidelines set by the nationally recognized Sunlight Foundation
- Ensure transparency in the wording of our County Bond Referenda, all County documents and in County processes and decision-making
- Bring new voices to the community table through our advisory commissions and ensure that all stakeholders are involved from the start through our new community-engagement process
These steps, if meaningfully implemented and consistently adhered to, will increase confidence in local government and help ensure that our decision-making is built on solid foundations.
Sharing Data with the Public
Sometimes County government falls short of being the open and transparent paragon we’d like it to be. Yet knowledge is power, and we must improve public access to public information. Real-time, online transparency for all government information, save for certain sensitive or private material, must be the norm. While I applaud the County Manager’s implementation of a resident-led Open Data Advisory Group and initiation of an Open Data Portal, we lag Montgomery County, hailed as the DC metro leader in Open Government. We boast of data-driven decisions, yet too often make it too hard, too slow and too costly to receive government information.
Requests for data dating back to February 2016 are unacceptable, especially when the posted reason is that “research is being done to determine if dataset meets open data request requirements.” I will continue to seek the publishing and sharing of data with the public on a timely basis—and in a form that offers full functionality with imbedded analysis tools to allow true data analysis, rather than static PDF’s and screenshots.
Arlington County substantially meets 22 of 31 Open Data Policy Guidelines dealing with what and how data should be made public published by the Sunlight Foundation. I have pressed the Manager to move forward on the remaining 30% as soon as possible.
In the context of our biennial bond referenda, we made more progress in 2018 in providing additional granularity in the official explanations that accompany the bond questions on the ballot so that voters know more than broad and amorphous categories and captions when they go to the polls.
Greater Inclusion Through Our Advisory Boards, Commissions and Community Engagement
Finally, as a veteran of County advisory boards and commissions in over 30 years of civic engagement, including the Commission on Aging, the Housing Commission and the Planning Commission, I know the value of citizen bodies in shaping public policy. They must be more reflective of Arlington’s diversity—both demographic and in perspective and background. Some of our most contentious planning efforts could have progressed more smoothly had a greater mix of community voices been at the table from the start. To that end, for the commissions to which I am the liaison, I work hard to appoint a greater diversity of members in all respects and to replenish these bodies with fresh ideas and talent on a regular basis. While term limits can be controversial, no one is indispensable.
Finally, our new multi-tier, context-specific community engagement process promises to provide more structure and predictability in how we relate to the public in shaping and performing the County’s business. There will always be emergencies, but a “no surprises” outcome must always be our goal.