Pittsburgh open data encourages public trust

Pittsburgh open data encourages public trust (credit: Eunice Oh/) Pittsburgh open data encourages public trust (credit: Eunice Oh/)

The adoption of Pittsburgh’s open data initiative is not only a victory for proponents of open government, but also signals an important and long-needed shift in city governance.

Through the open data law, officially adopted on March 11, the city will require that non-sensitive government data be posted online, encourage open policy standards, and guide departments in releasing their data for public viewing. Open data not only allows for greater transparency between the public and their government, but can also be used in academic studies on public policy issues.

The results from these studies can become valuable to the governments themselves, providing novel analyses which can improve the function of governmental systems and policy implementation.

Pittsburgh’s new mayor Bill Peduto has shown an extraordinary commitment to 21st century government by embracing Pittsburgh’s potential to have both a tech-friendly city and a tech-friendly government. Additionally, the mayor has sent a strong example by opening Pittsburgh’s mayoral office, posting his schedule online for public viewing, tweeting regarding his location and work, and promoting responsible governance.

These measures come in sharp contrast to Pittsburgh’s previous mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who ran a decidedly closed mayor’s office which was often at odds with the public of Pittsburgh and city government itself. Ravenstahl is currently facing an FBI investigation regarding allegations of the use of taxpayer money for personal purposes.

A recent article published by CBS Pittsburgh reveals that Ravenstahl left the mayor’s office with over $200,000 in missing or damaged property. This report reveals that this figure includes items such as a Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2006 Super Bowl victory trophy and office repairs, including a damaged painting and four broken chandeliers in the mayor’s office itself.

Peduto told CBS Pittsburgh “I don’t know why the public should have to pay for missing items or damaged items,” explaining that he turned the list of missing and damaged items over to the FBI.

Mayor Peduto’s adoption of an open data initiative not only allows for studies on policy to be conducted for the benefit of both government and taxpayers, but also signals a welcome shift away from the actions of Luke Ravenstahl.