In July 2011, Cleveland hosted the TAPSummit or Transparency Action Plan Summit, the brainchild of Beth Sebian and fellow members of the Cleveland Coalition. This month, Beth was recognized as an OpenGov Champion by the Washington, DC hub of all things transparency, the Sunlight Foundation. And the Civic Commons can say it directed at least a small bit of sunshine on the TAP Summit. 

What exactly is an OpenGov Champion? From the Sunlight Foundation's emailed announcement:

It seems like such a simple idea: We should have access to public information that affects us so we can make better decisions. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. It’s a long and slow fight, but we’re lucky not to be doing it alone. Everyday, the staff at Sunlight is inspired to work with people across the country (and increasingly, the world) who are fighting for transparency. Whether it’s saving the public’s “right to know” laws in Utah or reforming government after a major corruption scandal in Ohio, we are humbled by the passion and dedication of these activists. We started recording their stories, and today, we’re proud to share some of them with you.

And more on who might be an OpenGov Champion:

 Students, teachers, nurses, writers, programmers - These are our OpenGov Champions.

They are ordinary citizens, equipped with the special power we all share in this country: the power to take civic action to make our communities better. These folks are hard at work every day to make our government more accessible, accountable, open and transparent. They write blog posts, petition their elected officials, talk to their neighbors and friends and engage their activist peers in countless public campaigns or individual missions. They all have a shared goal: to make our government more responsible - and responsive - to those they represent. This page is dedicated to their stories. Get to know them and be inspired - after all, we believe that true change happens when people stand up and demand the changes they want to see in their government. 

And most importantly, why Sunlight selected Beth Sebian to represent:

Beth reached out to Sunlight in January 2011, following a change in her county's administration. New officials came to power in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on the promise that they would be more transparent than those who came before them -- which wouldn't be too hard. Previously, the County was besieged with headlines about politicians and civic leaders flouting public meetings laws, trading favors for contracts, taking bribes, and skewing audits. Citizens demanded change, and though newly elected officials said they would give it to them, Beth wanted to make sure they followed through.

In early 2011, Beth reached out to Sunlight's Organizing team and eventually founded the Transparency Action Plan (TAP) Summit. Inspired by Sunlight-grantee, CityCamp (which took its inspiration in turn from our own TransparencyCamp), the TAP Summit convened in July, 2011, bringing together representatives from every major public sector to discuss best practices in transparency, set actionable goals for the County, and create working groups and other support structures for seeing that these goals are reached. Beth’s efforts were embraced by country officials, including County Executive Ed Fitzgerald, who gave one of the keynote speakers at the Summit, and the County's new CIO, Jeff Mowry, who plans to continue to work with the civic hackers he met at the TAP event. For more information about TAP and to check in on its continued progress in Ohio visit http://TAPSummit.org

Interestingly, even the Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin took notice of Beth and her Cleveland Coalition colleagues nearly two years ago. From his column:

The Cleveland Coalition is no social club. The only entrance requirement is a willingness to act and a burning desire to make Cleveland a better place.

...

If you care about Cleveland, this is a group worth watching. 

And if you're young, energetic and committed to its future, it's one worth joining. 

I first learned about TAP from Beth directly. She contacted me, told me what she was pulling together and I was immediately in. Immediately. Did I say immediately? Because while many electeds in particular use the words transparent and open, the reality is some of them can't even tell you the difference between the two concepts, let alone approve budgets that prioritize them in the everyday work of a local governmental entity. (My session, here in slideshare, was on making budgets transparent and open.)

As this blog entry demonstrates, serious people came to the Summit and got serious work done which is continuing to get done, even as Beth continues to excel in her own career separate from her passion for contributing to good government. Recently, Beth and I sat down to catch up on many topics, not the least of which was plotting world domination.

But we promise, we'll do it in the most transparent and open way imaginable. Of course.

Sunlight is looking for a steady stream of opengov champions to feature. Who is your open gov champion?

 

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Copyright © 2012 Jill Miller Zimon; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

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