The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is launching an exciting new pilot program designed to more proactively involve subnational governments in the initiative. OGP is a 69 country partnership aiming to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP is looking for subnational governments with committed political and working level reformers, and engaged and energetic partners in civil society, to take part in a pilot program designed to advance open government reform.

Austin, Texas, United States, was one of the subnational governments that successfully applied to engage directly with OGP in a pilot 'pioneer' program. Participants will receive dedicated assistance and advice from the OGP Support Unit and OGP Steering Committee to develop and fulfill independent open government commitments in action plans, in partnership with civil society organisations. They will actively contribute to peer learning and networking activities with other subnational governments. The commitments and short action plans developed by the pioneers will be assessed by OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM). The pilot will give OGP the opportunity to test and assess the IRM’s capacity to act as the accountability mechanism for subnational government participation.

The following text is from the City of Austin's application letter, available in images below.

February 26, 2016

Open Government Partnership Steering Committee
Ms. Kitty von Bertele
VIA EMAIL

Ms. von Bertele:

Please accept this letter of interest on behalf of the City of Austin, Texas, for our inclusion in the Open Government Partnership's subnational pilot program as a Pioneer participant.

Austin, Texas – a global city of over 800,000 people – operates under a City Council-City Manager system of governance with a home rule charter. Our concerted our efforts to increase transparency, accountability, and civic participation have yielded results: an innovative City Council discussion board; a comprehensive 30-year plan for Austin’s future co-created by its people; a change to our election system that brought diverse, geographically representative voices to City; and annual hackathons with our local universities and civic volunteer brigade, Open Austin. Our work has culminated in this opportunity to work with the OGP Pioneer program to intertwine these efforts into a newer and greater outcome for our city and the public we serve.

As the attached letters of endorsement note, we work positively with local civil society, dedicate ourselves to protecting civic space, and engage constructively with citizens outside government. The City of Austin has always been committed to a highly collaborative approach to sharing experiences and insights with peers, such as with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, the International City/Council Management Association. We partner with other public, private, and non-profit organizations at the SXSW festival, and will host the June 2016 Smart Cities Innovation Summit.

Please find attached documentation of our open government history, letters of community endorsement, and our most recent Council Resolution 20160225-017 expressing our commitment to this pilot program. Should we be selected for this high honor, we look forward to partnering with peers worldwide to promote innovation, evolve our open government commitments, and raise the bar in our accountability to the citizens of this great City we love.

Sincerely,

Mayor Steve Adler City of Austin, Texas

Cc: City Manager, Marc Ott; City Council; City Attorney, Anne Morgan; OGP Coordinator, United States of America

Attachments: Letters of Endorsement; Open Government History; Resolution

Official Commitments and Goal Setting

Austin City Council: expressed support for open government and transparency:

City Management: implemented several Administrative Bulletins expressing his policy position and support for open government and transparency, including:

Transparency

City Council Discussion Board: State law requires all discussions involving a majority of council to occur in public meetings, with the exception of the online message board. The City of Austin has been recognized as the most prolific user of this tool, which allows full council discussion at any time on any topic, with full and free access by the public. http://austincouncilforum.org/

Open Government Resources and Open Data: The City maintains an Open Government resources webpage, to provide the public with a concentrated list of open government assets found on the city website, whether they be related to financial transparency, open data, hackathons, open meetings, public information, council financial filings, campaign finance filings, or city Ethics Review Commission activities. http://www.austintexas.gov/page/city-council-open-government

Campaign Finance Filings: Under Texas Election Law Chapter 254 - Political Reporting, candidates, officeholders and specific-purpose committees are required to file their campaign finance reports with the City Clerk’s Office. The Austin City Council approved a resolution on June 25, 2015 mandating the creation of a database providing public access to all contributions and expenditures reported to the Office of the City Clerk by a candidate, officeholder, or political committee. http://www.austintexas.gov/department/campaign-finance-reports

Citizen Engagement

Imagine Austin & Code Next: Thousands of Austinites shaped the city’s comprehensive plan, Imagine Austin, throughout the public process, including over 18,000 public inputs over two years, where residents described their ideas for the city’s bicentennial in 2039. http://www.austintexas.gov/department/community-participation http://www.austintexas.gov/department/codenext-community-engagement

Community Engagement Task Force: Council Resolution 20150129023, establishing a Community Engagement Task Force to engage the community in improving the City's open government tools. http://austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=225247 https://www.austintexas.gov/tfce

Open Government Symposiums: The City regularly brings together transparency professionals from government, nonprofit organizations, the media, and the private sector for a day-long free community discussion of best practices, challenges, and changes. http://www.austintexas.gov/opengov2015

Accountability

10-1 Geographic Representation: In 2012, Austin voters elected to transition from an at-large system of elections for City Council to a system of geographic representation, whereby 10 Council members are elected from districts and a Mayor is elected at-large. In 2014, Austin voters elected the first Council under the geographic representation system.

Open Data and Performance: The City of Austin has published over 300 data sets, with 4-6 new datasets on line monthly, and routinely publishes performance reports: https://data.austintexas.gov, https://www.austintexas.gov/department/city-manager/performance-reports

Ethics and Compliance: The Ethics and Compliance Team provides legal advice and ethics training to City employees, boards and commissions, and elected officials. The Team will become a Division within the Law Department in 2016. https://www.austintexas.gov/department/ethics-and-compliance

City Auditor: The Austin City Charter created the Office of the City Auditor to assist the Austin City Council, citizens, and City management in establishing accountability, transparency, and a culture of continuous improvement in City operations and service delivery. https://www.austintexas.gov/department/auditor

Public Information Request Team: The Law Department includes a team to receive and respond to public requests for city government documents, with a state-mandated turnaround time of ten business days.

International Engagement

City of Austin staff has made presentations nationally and internationally on a range of open government issues, include presentations at Open Government Partnership 2015 Global Summit in Mexico City and the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws Annual Conferences in Quebec, Philadelphia, and Boston.

The City of Austin is committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Reasonable modifications and equal access to communications will be provided upon request.

 

Instagram