Someday, almost every action taken by Miami-Dade County government will automatically be uploaded to the county’s website, available for the public to peruse.
That’s the vision, anyway, of some county leaders — including the mayor, at least one commissioner and Miami-Dade’s information technology department — who have been actively pushing to post more information online, and to make the data easier to find.
But the effort has already hit a bump: The latest high-profile database, posted in August, features the names, titles and salaries of the county’s nearly 26,000 employees. And some workers are less than happy about it.
The county commission will vote Tuesday on a proposal by Commissioner Barbara Jordan that would force the administration to take down the database and prohibit it from putting the information online again. It would still be available upon request.
“Information should be provided publicly, regarding salaries or anything else that is done in Miami-Dade County,” Jordan said. “But I think we also have to be concerned with balancing that with the safety and security of our employees.”
She will run into ardent opposition from Mayor Carlos Gimenez, whose administration posted the database on an open-government page that also lists the county’s check register and other financial documents.
“It’s a public record; I don’t see what the problem is,” he said of the salaries, adding that residents are entitled to the information. “They can see where their money is going.”
He added: “I think they have a right to it, and they should be able to obtain it in an easy way. Then the public can come to their own conclusions about it. ... We don’t have anything to hide.”
Nationally, governments are posting more records online as technology continues to improve, said Kevin Curry, director of Code for America, a nonprofit that recruits self-described “geeks” to work with municipalities to find better ways to deliver information online. The debate has focused on which records to provide, and how.
For example, the federal government, which has a portal called Data.gov, has required agencies to create their own open-government pages to post data sets, budgets and reports, all in one place.
“We went from having a very few number — like in the tens or maybe hundreds — of public data sets published on Data.gov to millions,” Curry said. “Now there’s more of a habit around it.”
Some efforts have been rocky. The Sunburst website of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, which publishes his staff’s emails, has been criticized by some open-government advocates as disappointing because Scott’s aides don’t use email as a primary form of communication.
In many cases — especially in Florida, which has some of the most liberal public-records laws in the country — it’s just a matter of making available data user-friendly and understandable, added Curry, who runs a Code for America program that organizes tech-savvy volunteers to engage in their communities.
“Open data means it’s publicly accessible,” he said. “It’s not, ‘Here are the salaries in a PDF document,’ and you can’t do anything with it, can’t make interesting charts and graphs.”