Another win for open government in Oaktown! On Tuesday — three weeks after the Open Budget project was presented to the mayor and City Council — councilmembers passed (6-2) the “Budget Process Transparency and Public Participation Policy,” led by Libby Schaaf.
While the policy makes Oakland’s budget process more open to the public, it is also the first piece of legislation in Oakland to mandate that public data be published on an open data website by specific deadlines.
The release of five-year budget forecast data — one of the most discussed topics on openbudgetoakland.org and #oakbudget — is now required within two weeks of the forecast being heard by City Council, roughly four months before the July 1 deadline for adopting a new budget. Now we can see and discuss Oakland’s financial future before we decide how to spend our money! Data for the mayor’s proposed budget must now be public by May 1.
The policy is somewhat vague, however, on the format in which budget data is made public:
“… budget data shall be available in open data format on the City’s open data portal …”
Councilmember Schaaf tells us that she’s committed to clarifying data formats in future revisions to this resolution or as part of new, broader open data resolutions. In particular, we hope it will be made explicit that data be released in “spreadsheet format” and be “machine readable” — nerdy yes, but absolutely necessary for Oaklanders to be able to see, discuss, and participate in Oakland’s budget process.
We greatly appreciate Councilmember Schaaf’s leadership on this resolution and the solid majority of council members who voted in favor — an outcome consistent with the Open Government Pledge that four of the six winning candidates signed last fall.
Written by Adam Stiles & Spike