Louisville Metro Council votes to ensure open access to public information
Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted to codify an existing data sharing practice into law.
Mayor Greg Fischer created the city’s open data portal through an executive order nearly a decade ago. Democratic District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur, who sponsored the legislation, said it makes the database permanent.
“We cannot be transparent if we're gatekeeping data…and we can't be informed if public information isn't publicly available,” Arthur said last week. “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.”
The measure also adds a requirement for Metro Council to annually review the open data policy and allows the body to make revisions to it and expand the scope of available information.
The open data portal includes information like pending property maintenance requests, government employee salaries and a local sex offender registry. It also offers public health information, including COVID-19 infection numbers by age and vaccination rates in different areas.
The measure aims to make it easier to access data from public documents, but not everything will be published automatically. Some files will continue to be released only in response to an open records request. The new ordinance requires individual city departments to upload public data, as long as they don’t violate privacy laws or pose a threat to safety or security.
District 19 Council Member Anthony Piagentini, a Republican, voiced his support for the effort and stressed the importance of easy access to public information.
“It's one of the things I see people of all political persuasions agree on, which is we need way more transparency in government. So it's a wonderful thing — it makes sure that no matter who the mayor is moving forward, that we have this code of law,” Piagentini said.
Since the measure is codifying an existing practice, it will not cost the city more in labor or financial resources.
The city’s office of Civic Innovation and Technology is also working on adding information about police use of force and 911 calls — as well as property deeds and transfers. The office will also use public feedback to expand available data categories.
Open data sharing wouldn’t have been immediately affected if Metro Council voted the measure down. However, the new ordinance prohibits future mayoral administrations from scrapping the practice.