Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Open Government Survey finds oldest unanswered FOIA request is 20 years old

July 11, 2011, 2:54 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

(Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is supposed to guarantee prompt responses from the government to information requests, turned 45 last week. However, the 2011 Knight Open Government Survey showed that some federal agencies have been letting requests languish for years – including a request to the National Archives dating back to 1991.

FOIA, which President Johnson signed into law in 1966, dictates that government agencies process and respond to requests within 20 days, with a possible 10-day extension to accommodate “unusual circumstances.” However, according to the 2011 Knight Open Government Survey, eight  federal agencies have requests that date back more than a decade, demonstrating that the government still has a long way to go before it successfully fulfills the terms of its own law.  

“We need public information, just like we need freedom of speech or freedom of the press,” said Eric Newtonsenior adviser to the president of the Knight Foundation. “In order to be great citizens, we need to know something about what we’re voting about, we need to know how our government is working.”

In order to test which government agencies were responding promptly to FOIA requests, the National Security Archive ...

New site engages citizens in making New York City more livable

July 8, 2011, 2:24 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

By Paula Ellis, VP/Strategic Initiatives

Inspired by the power of emerging technologies and residents’ do-it-yourself spirit, cities across the country are beginning to re-imagine what public participation could be in the 21st Century.

Yesterday, at a neighborhood church in Brooklyn, New York, the City of New York and Knight-funded CEOs for Cities launched Change by Us NYC with help from Knight Foundation’s Technology for Engagement initiative. The website invites New Yorkers to propose community change ideas and seek city money to help make it happen.

It’s a really cool idea that we hope is just the first of many, many, many new notions about how government can really engage with residents who care about the place they live and want to help make it better.

Change by Us, known initially as Give A Minute, began as a CEOs for Cities experiment in Chicago and Memphis, where government leaders wanted to know if you could tap into the wisdom of the crowd to find creative, practical and effective solutions to persistent challenges. 

At Knight Foundation, where we believe that informed and engaged communities are better places to live, work and play, we’re excited to help support this burgeoning movement. And with more than 700 articles of feedback provided to the NY site so far, we’re proud to be involved.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith also expressed his excitement, saying in an official release, “Change by Us NYC will be a social network for grassroots leaders.  New Yorkers have long been active in greening our city and improving our quality of life, and thanks to this new website, volunteers, professionals, and city agencies will have the opportunity to collaborate on issues like sustainability like never before.”

Several major news providers have already picked up the story, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which broke down the site’s easy-to-use layout, saying ...

Cleveland begins effort to renew The Flats with an engaging online master plan

July 8, 2011, 1:58 p.m., Posted by Jennifer Thomas

The Flats Area

The Civic Commons, a Northeast Ohio effort to create community conversation, is now helping to facilitate an engagement process for city development. With the launch of its Flats Forward project, the Commons will allow key business stakeholders, city leaders and citizens to engage in a master plan for the Flats Area of downtown Cleveland.

Over $2 billion of public/private investment is planned for the Flats in downtown Cleveland, with commercial, retail, and residential development. As they say at the Commons, “Join the Conversation!”

Earlier this year Knight Foundation announced renewed support for the Fund for Our Economic Future and JumpStart as part of an ongoing strategy to boost Northeast Ohio and the Akron area. 

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