The City Council passes two data-transparency laws, counting on City Hall to comply

Mathieu Eugene, Quinn and Gale Brewer (Dana Rubinstein)
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The City Council is about to pass two new laws that designed to make the machinations of city government less opaque.

The first, called the Open Data Bill, will require city agencies to post government data that poses no security risk to a central portal. Unlike the curated data that's currently available, this data will be raw.

“It’s gonna make the important data that we have in the city useful,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“In 18 months from the bill's effective date, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications will have to release a compliance plan cataloguing all open data sets that’ll be included on the portal and a timeline for when they will be added," she said.

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The public will then be able to sort through and analyze the data however they want.

When asked whether the bill had some sort of enforcement mechanism, Quinn said, "No, I mean, the mayor's signing the bill and we're working with the Department of Information and Technology on it, and as Gale [Brewer, the sponsor of the bill] said, they’ve been central to the process ... You know, look, if they were to veto the bill then there might be some kind of an issue, but we don’t expect anything but full compliance ...”

The Council also will vote on a bill that would require city agencies to do a better job notifying the public of upcoming hearings related to changes in the city's administrative code. According to the bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Margaret Chin, agencies will have to post information prominently on their websites about proposed rule changes and applicable hearings at least one week in advance. The bill would also create a website called NYC Rules on which all of the proposed rulemaking would be aggregated.

"Presently the city is required to publish notice of a proposed rule change in the City Record at least 30 days prior to a public hearing," said Quinn. "The City Record, however, and I think we all know this, beyond [New York Post City Hall bureau chief] David Seifman, has very limited circulation outside the halls of city government, though I think he is its star reader. The administration estimates that there are only 300 non-government subscribers to the City Record, and I actually want to meet them and ask them why they get the City Record."

Though the bill was not sparked by the city’s under-the-radar bid to change the homeless shelter eligibility process, Quinn said, "In my opinion, the administration clearly broke the [City Administrative Procedure Act] rules and they way would have broken the new rules."

A reporter asked if there was any dissonance between the speaker's criticism of the recent release of teacher evaluation data and her support for the release of other city data, as embodied in the first bill.

Quinn responded, "My concern about the data around teachers’ evaluations ... isn’t that data was released, it’s that I believe it wasn’t complete data, it wasn’t data that gives parents and others the full picture of the situation."