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LBJ School Student Research Calls for Open-Standard Data, Better Transparency in Texas State Finance

“Texas Financial Transparency: Open and Online” Conference Represents One Year of Student Research Recommending ‘Best Practices,’ Changes to System

 AUSTIN, Texas, April 13, 2010—Students from the LBJ School of Public affairs will host a conference titled “Texas Financial Transparency: Open and Online,” which represents a year of their work and research into Texas state and local financial transparency, on April 23.

The conference is the culmination of a yearlong research project principally investigated by LBJ School students as part of the School’s required Policy Research Project. The purpose of the conference is to not only lend the students a forum to present their findings, but to also function as a call to action to government officials, the media, and the public sector to initiate a shift in the ways in which Texas government finances are made available and transparent online.

LBJ School Lecturer, Sherri Greenberg , former Texas State Representative and current Center for Politics and Governance Fellow (CPG), led the research project in junction with LBJ School Senior Lecturer Gary Chapman. According to Greenberg, the conference will highlight “best practices” and will make recommendation to enhance the financial transparency of Texas state and local government.

“This conference is based on a research project that came about as a result of the ever-increasing interest surrounding the issue of government transparency,” said Greenberg. “Our contribution will be in the area of state and local finance transparency. President Barack Obama put special emphasis on transparency when he made it the topic of his first executive order in January 2009, and it is our aim to urge the state government of Texas to shift from the conventional proprietary data formats to a ‘one stop shop’ model for finance reporting.”

According to Olivia Travieso, a first-year Master of Public Affairs student, the research project was an extremely educational experience, bridging the gap between theory and practice in a way that could truly impact the issue of online transparency.

“This was learning by doing,” said Travieso, “by digging in and tackling the issue first hand. We had complete ownership of the this project and shaped its direction from day one.”

In addition to pulling speakers from the community, government, media and interest groups to lend their voice to the discussion, the students also intend to issue their final report, which outlines several recommendations on how to streamline and reformat state and local finance transparency.

“Our final report includes many detailed recommendations,” said Travieso. “We would like to see online financial transparency by more centrally located, in other words, a one-stop-shop. We want the data to be presented in a more organized and user-friendly format, and we want the data to be open-standard.”

According to Travieso, Texas has made great strides in the area of financial transparency.

“Texas continues to be one of the leaders in financial information available online,” said Travieso. “However, the presence of information does not equal transparency. There is still much that can be done to ensure that the available data is as useful and as open to the public as possible.”

This is the second conference in a series hosted by the LBJ School exploring the renewal of accountability through transparency in government and the role of the Internet as articulated in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Transparency and Open Government Memoranda, the very first official presidential memoranda issued by President Barack Obama. (Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 at 12:00 a.m.) The first conference, led by Gary Chapman, was held in May 2009 and focused on the role of the Internet in accountability and transparency.

Opening the April 23 conference will be LBJ School Dean Robert Hutchings.  Featured speakers include Dustin Haisler, Assistant City Manager of the City of Manor, Texas; Ethan Zuckerman, Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and Victor Gonzalez, Director of Innovation and Chief Technology Officer for the Office of the Texas Comptroller.

A community panel titled “Financial Transparency in Action,” will also be included and will feature Eva DeLuna Castro, Senior Budget Analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities; James Quintero, Fiscal policy Analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Fiscal Policy; Matt Stiles, Reporter for the Texas Tribune; Dustin Lanier, Director for the Council of Competitive Governments for the Office of the Texas Comptroller, and Brenda Bell, reporter for the Austin American Statesman.

The conference is sponsored by the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Center for Politics and Governance, and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

For more information on the conference, including a link to register for the event, visit: http://www.utexas.edu/lbj/cpg/event_detail.php?id=53

Press:

Quorum Report - Transparency Could Extend Into the Committee Room - April 28, 2010

Northloop Neighborhoods - Students examine financial transparency at conference - April 15, 2010

TweetMeme.com - LBJ School Student Research Calls for Open-Source Data, Better Transparency in Texas Finance - April 15, 2010

TexasWatchDog.com - 'Texas Financial Transparency' Topicof April 23rd Forum in Austin - April 13, 2010

Related:

Final Report

Texas Business Review - Government Transparency Trends in Texas by Lara Kirkham and Gary Chapman - April 2010