Monthly Archives: March 2014 on the Kojo Nnamdi Radio Show

Yesterday’s Kojo Nnamdi Show explored “decoded law” and what it can do for District citizens: “All D.C. residents are expected to abide by the D.C. Code, a compilation of all city laws and regulations. But until recently, most residents didn’t have easy online access to the code itself. A coalition of advocates and civic hackers recently released a new website,, which attempts to shed light on the inner workings of local government.”

Key Quotes
“The law is the source code of this community. Everything from parking rules to election laws, it’s all in the Code.  And we wanted to use all the technology that we have at our fingertips today to make it fully accessible to you. And accessible means downloadable, searchable and getting it understandable.”

– Seamus Kraft, OpenGov Executive Director

“Ultimately all the information that’s made available through the Office of Open Government site is really meant to engage people with district government.  Hence, the reason for decoding the D.C. Code, because ultimately what we want is for anyone who wants to access the district laws is to be able to understand them, because if people can understand them they can better engage with our government, and hopefully have an impact on the laws that are passed.”

– Traci Hughes, director of the DC Office of Open Government

“And the reason I brought two volumes of the D.C. Code is to show you that if I wanted to research something simple, I would have to have two volumes of the Code. I’d have the index and the Code, and now I can use my phone. And it’s those types of advantages that didn’t exist a year ago that do. And previously I would’ve had to ask the vendor, could you build an app for my phone? And I’d have to pay money for it. I’ve have to go through the procurement process.  And now because the Code is available on line all I have to do is rely on people that are doing it themselves to make it available for me. And it’s been a real learning experience but something that’s good for everybody, including the government.”

– V. David Zvenyach, Chief Counsel for the DC City Council

“For information about the laws, there’s usually much less resistance. And the benefit is very different, very powerful, very broad…The D.C. Code is a very complicated thing and it takes some understanding to know where in the Code you should be looking for something. And, in fact, knowing where the D.C. Code sits in relation to D.C. municipal regulations and case law and other aspects. So it actually — it takes a community to invest in some of these before you can make heads or tails of it.”

– Josh Tauberer,

OpenGov Foundation & Washington, DC Office of Open Government Launch

Our Nation’s Capital Becomes America’s 5th ‘Open Law’ City with New Online Platform that Makes the District’s Laws Accessible and User-Friendly for All

WASHINGTON, DC (March 19, 2013) – The non-partisan, non-profit OpenGov Foundation and the Washington, D.C. Board of Ethics and Accountability’s Office of Open Government today announced the launch of, a free software platform that empowers all District residents to discover, access, and use local laws when they want, and how they want.  Washington, D.C. becomes the 5th “open law” city in the United States, joining the nationwide America Decoded network of user-friendly, online and restriction-free municipal and state legal codes.

Click Here to Access

“ is a necessary resource for District residents” said Traci L. Hughes, director of the D.C. Office of Open Government.  “The value of a transparent government is limited unless the public has the ability to access, and easily navigate its laws.  Greater access will inevitably lead to more people becoming engaged with our lawmakers and the legislative process – and that is open government at its best.” lifts and ‘liberates’ the District’s Municipal Code from unalterable, often hard to find online files —such as PDFs—by inserting them into user-friendly, organized and modern website formats.  This straightforward switch delivers significant results:  more clarity, context, and public understanding of the laws’ impact on D.C. citizens’ daily lives. For the first-time, allows unrestricted reuse of municipal laws and legal data by everyday residents so that they can use, share, and interact with it as they see fit. Simply, gives citizens the information they need, on their terms.

“I am thrilled to finally have the District’s Municipal Code in a user-friendly format,” said D.C. Councilmember David Grosso.  “Residents will now be in a better position to engage with me and my colleagues on the D.C. Council because they will be able to understand how the laws we pass impact their lives on a daily basis. I am very impressed with the hard work of both the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability’s Office of Open Government and the OpenGov Foundation, who together made this possible here in our nation’s capital.”

As the website evolves to meet the growing needs of citizens, stakeholders, and government employees, DC residents will soon have access to municipal regulations at their fingertips in real-time.   Much like Google, offers the ability to search city existing and proposed laws by section, topic, and tags.

VIDEO: America Decoded – Free, Online & Open Access to Your Laws and America Decoded network are powered by the The State Decoded, an open-source software platform and API used to display states’ law codes. The free platform was originally developed by Waldo Jaquith in 2010, thanks to a generous grant from the Knight Foundation.  The America Decoded network has since grown to include the legal codes of Maryland, Virginia, and Florida, as well as the municipal laws of Baltimore (MD), San Francisco (CA), Philadelphia (PA), Chicago (IL) with more states and cities in the process of joining.  Committed to using taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently, the OpenGov Foundation and State Decoded teams have partnered to  ‘liberate’ the law online in every state, city and town in America…at absolutely no cost to taxpayers.

D.C. Office of Open Government,

The Open Government Office, an independent office within the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, enforces the Open Meetings Act, monitors the District’s Freedom of Information Act compliance and aids agencies with implementing open government practices.

Traci Hughes, Director
D.C. Office of Open Government
Phone: (202) 481-3411

The OpenGov Foundation,

The OpenGov Foundation is dedicated to developing and deploying technologies that support every citizen’s ability to participate in government, and hold it accountable. The State Decoded is a project launched by Waldo Jaquith and built upon by the OpenGov Foundation, both with funding by a grant from the Knight Foundation.


Seamus Kraft, Executive Director

OpenGov Foundation