Expanding Transparency without Expanding the Budget

by the City of Austin, TX for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Relentless Creativity

Beginning in 2015, Austin City Council passed a series of transparency measures to increase reporting requirements for candidates, officeholders, political committees, and lobbyists, and to open transparency data to Austin residents. The Council directed the City Clerk’s Office to implement the new measures.

With no additional funding or staff and tight deadlines, the Clerk’s Office drew on existing resources, the technical skills of its staff, and a tremendous amount of innovation and creativity to develop a series of forms, tools, and websites that together supported and increased transparency, while also streamlining and automating many aspects of the process.

Over the course of two years, the Clerk’s Office created fillable PDFs to comply with the City’s campaign finance and lobbyist activity reporting requirements, developed internal applications to extract, validate, transform, and upload report data, published the data to the City’s Open Data Portal, and created public web searches for Austin residents to easily navigate the data.

Additionally, the Clerk’s Office developed a series of training videos, available on YouTube, to assist filers with the complex filing requirements, and conducted in-person training sessions on a regular basis. 

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