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NYC Improves Online Access to City Laws, Procurement Notices

Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed two bills to improve transparency efforts in Gotham.

Keeping tabs on municipal business and city laws just got a lot easier in the Big Apple.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed two bills that improve government transparency. The first, Introductory 363-A, requires online posting of the City Record – NYC’s daily list of procurement notices, bid solicitations and awards – within 24 hours of the print edition publishing. The second, Introductory 149-A, mandates that New York City laws and its Charter be published on the Web. Any changes to the rules must be updated online within 30 days.

De Blasio called the Aug. 7 bill signings an advancement of his administration’s goal of being the “most technology-friendly and innovation-driven city in the world." He also announced a public-private partnership that will enable New York City to better analyze search through data in the City Record.

Gotham is partnering with a number of organizations on the project, including BetaNYC, Citizens Union, Dev Bootcamp, Ontodia, Socrata, and the Sunlight Foundation. Stacey Cumberbatch, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) explained that while some portions of the City Record are online and searchable now, the partnership will help unlock archival data and push forward open government principles.

“The City Record is a dynamic curated aggregation from several city agencies that will unlock new operational insights,” said Joel Natividad, CEO & co-founder of Ontodia, in a statement. “It will allow citizens, policy-makers, researchers, journalists, activists, academics and businesses to keep the pulse of the city administration.”

Int. 149 has a number of benefits for both residents and city staff. While the city’s laws are currently online, they are hard to locate and are only updated twice a year, according to Int. 149 co-sponsor Council Member Ben Kallos.

In June, a Google search for “NYC Laws” returned a Web address attached to the New York Legal Publishing Corp., with no clear delineation as to the authenticity of the information. That Web address is no longer active, but Government Technology found that city laws can now be accessed through the New York City Law Department.

In an email to Government Technology, Kallos explained that as a part of the Free Law Founders movement to bring greater openness and accountability to government through technology, he’s proud of the efforts made by New York City.

"These bills are crucial because they are part of a changing paradigm of how residents relate to government and the law,” he said. “Public information, including all laws, will now be in the hands of New Yorkers in a way that it wasn't before.”

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines from 2011 to mid-2015.