New Online Platform Engages Citizens in Government Oversight to Stem Corruption

Reclaim New York launches first statewide citizen-driven open government website, using 29 indicators to comprehensively evaluate transparency practices

PRESS RELEASE– Across the state, waste, corruption, and secrecy at every level of government have dogged New Yorkers. Now, they can finally help hold their governments accountable, and demand comprehensive online transparency.

Reclaim New York just launched a new statewide, citizen-driven, online platform for evaluating government accessibility, and transparency. The new website, part of the group’s New York Transparency Project, will engage citizens to measure up to 29 key transparency practices for 2,300 government entities.

Help citizens find & use Reclaim’s new site during Sunshine Week via Twitter.

“It can be done. Citizens can hold their governments accountable at every level if they have the right tools for the job,” said Reclaim New York Executive Director Brandon Muir. “The new evaluation platform we released today is going to change the game. Now, every New Yorker can get involved and show whether their local government is open and transparent, or operating in the shadows.”

Reclaim partnered with data management specialists in open government at Dyntra to create the innovative new transparency platform. The evaluation system allows local residents to learn whether they’re getting the transparency they deserve with 29 indicators of open government that include: whether contracts are posted online, access to expenditure records, notice of meetings and minutes, elected official contact information, as well as posting of permits and forms.

New Yorkers will grade their local governments on the public availability of this critical information, building the first citizen-driven report card for nearly every local government in the state. Users must cite the source for their assessment of an indicator, and it is reviewed by administrators.

“This is a truly unprecedented moment for New Yorkers who want to reclaim ownership of their government. Working with this new site they can make proactive transparency a reality,” said Muir.  “We have set clear standards that let everyone know what practices governments should follow to avoid secret meetings, shady contracts, and a host of problems that can keep New Yorkers in the dark.”

Reclaim’s New York Transparency Project has been leading the way to a new era of citizen-driven oversight since its launch last year. The project has sent over 2500 Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for basic expenditure information to every County, City, Town, Village, and School District government in the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and seven counties in the Southern Tier.

This effort has made over 450 spending records available in Reclaim’s online transparency database, so citizens can see how their tax dollars are spent.

“We applaud local governments that have led the way on transparency by showing how each and every tax dollar is spent,” Muir stated. “The Towns of Ossining and Yorktown, the Town of North Hempstead, and Nassau County, deserve recognition for setting an example, and posting their spending online.”

Reclaim’s project has won precedent-setting victories in court, forcing the release of basic expenditure records, and winning reimbursement of legal fees. Reclaim won its lawsuit filed in Nassau County, forcing the Town of Oyster Bay and the Manhasset School District to provide the records requested and pay attorney’s fees.

Litigation over failure to comply to FOIL requests for spending records is pending with the Town of Babylon, Chester Union School District, Peekskill City School District, and the Village of Spring Valley.

“Any governments that prefer to do business in the dark are going to face the sunlight soon enough,” Muir added. “The New York Transparency Project, an army of engaged citizens, and innovative technology are going to work together to demand more open government across this state”

Learn more about the New York Transparency Project at NYTransparency.org