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Proposed measure aims to permanently ensure access to public data in Louisville

J. Tyler Franklin

Metro Council is set to consider a proposal that would codify Louisville’s existing data sharing practice into law. 

Nearly a decade ago, Mayor Greg Fischer issued an executive order that established an open data portal in Louisville.

District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur’s proposal would codify the practice into law and make the database permanent. He said its primary goal would be to increase transparency but added that it would also strip barriers to accessing public information.

“If you can go to that data portal and get the same information that you need, instead of calling 311, or calling a council office, or calling the mayor's office, it'll be a lot faster for you. And of course, save us money and resources in the long run,” Arthur said. “We cannot be transparent if we're gatekeeping data…and we can't be informed if public information isn't publicly available.”

Currently available data includes pending property maintenance requests, government employee salaries and a local sex offender registry. It also offers public health information, like COVID-19 infection numbers by age and vaccination rates in different areas.

Grace Simrall is Louisville’s chief of Civic Innovation and Technology. She addressed Metro Council’s Equity and Inclusion Committee last week and said the effort would encourage public engagement and use insights from that to possibly make more information available. 

“By taking this step of codifying it, we are making sure that the practice of using data to drive decision making and inform legislation and policy continues on at Louisville Metro,” Simrall said. “We are just ensuring that the public has the means to see what we've done, and also give us feedback on how we can improve or release more data to them.”  

For example, her department is working on updating the portal to include police use of force incidents; 911 calls; property deeds and transfers; and recent home sales.

The measure would require each city department to upload data they obtain or generate, as long as it doesn’t include protected or sensitive information that would threaten government security, public safety or privacy. 

However, the portal doesn’t support all data formats and people may still need to submit Freedom of Information Act requests for full documents, like PDFs. District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong highlighted what that means for people during last week’s Equity and Inclusion Committee meeting.

“Any documents that are public records, we have to provide those documents to folks,” Chambers Armstrong said. “What we're saying is we're going to be proactive and help make that data more easily accessible by — instead of waiting for an open records act request for documents — taking the data in those documents and proactively pushing it out.”

The proposal will be up for discussion before the full Metro Council on Thursday. 

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