Annual open data report reveals progress in accessibility — but some data lags behind

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A progress report on the state of Louisville’s open data projects revealed improvements in Louisville Metro Government’s accessibility to public information, as well as areas where data transparency is lacking.

The 2018 Annual Open Data Report detailed a variety of data projects released in 2017 that earned the city high praise from the Sunlight Foundation’s U.S. Open Data City Census, which ranked Louisville in the top ten out of nearly 100 cities in terms of information access.

The report was compiled last month by Michael Schnuerle, Matro’s head of the data-driven Office of Civic Innovation. In it, he noted that the publication of databases for business listings, public facilities and traffic collisions were some of the main drivers for the high ranking from the foundation.

“Open data, public transparency and data-driven efforts in Louisville remain a strong and continuing priority for Mayor Greg Fischer, the employees of Louisville Metro Government and the Office of Civic Innovation,” Schnuerle wrote in the report’s conclusion. He added that the city “will continue to release new data the public values, improve existing data sets and increase the frequency of data updates.”

Schnuerle mentioned in his report that there are two major components of public accountability and transparency that may be made publicly available in the future: Police use-of-force information, which is collected by the city but not released, and data on how much lobbyist spend in efforts to sway city officials, which isn’t collected.

And although Kentuckians can access state-level lobbying data from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, including the names of registered lobbying agents and the amount of expenditures winding their way through Frankfort, Louisvillians don’t know which companies and private interests court city officials. Nashville currently boasts online lobbyist reporting requirements, whereas Charlotte has been dubbed the largest U.S. city without such reporting requirements.

Other “potential releases” mentioned in the report include 911 calls, fire hydrant locations, property deeds and transfers, recent home sales and usage of Bird scooters, among others. The report also called on agencies outside of Metro Government to release their data, such as property assessment and transfer information, which are held by the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator and the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, respectively. That data is available but only for a fee.

As far as currently-available police data goes, the city provides information on officers who have been assaulted while on duty and, more recently, data about “officer-involved shootings” (i.e. when police shoot an individual). That data is especially relevant not only in the context of national conversations about police brutality but from the viewpoint of local advocacy groups as well.

A proposed database of civilian complaints against police officers has yet to materialize since it was first mentioned as a possible release in the agency’s 2015 annual report.

You can find the entire 2018 report here.