Last month I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the White House asking for a list of President Obama’s official trips since he took office. I’m seeking the data not for my day job, but as a personal visualization opportunity (and because presidential travel guru Mark Knoller won’t share his famous database with me).
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I’m seeking a historical electronic listing of trips made by President Obama since he took office in January 2009. Specifically, I’m seeking a database,spreadsheet or comma-delimited text file disclosing his travel withthe following fields, if maintained: Trip ID, date, address(City/State) of trip destination(s), and any notes or descriptions of the event.
I’m not seeking PDFs or paper printouts. I’m not seeking data on future trips. I’m not seeking any fields that contain security information, or information about the president’s family (if they accompanied him on any trip). If you do not maintain some of the fields I’ve requested, I will amend my request accordingly.
Please let me know if you or your office need clarification, or if you believe some or all of the records might fall under a FOIA exception. I’m willing to discuss amending my request, if needed, especially if doing so would prevent a denial of my request, reduce the burden on your staff or speed the release of the records.
Today, I got this letter from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency that handles the White House’s open-records requests:
At least I know they’re processing the request. As it turns out, OMB is pretty quick when it comes to handling FOIA requests. From 2008-2010, the agency closed its request cases in just over a month on average. So, there’s hope that some day soon I’ll know whether I get the data. I’m still not too hopeful, though.
Here’s a comparison of some major federal agencies and the time it took each to process requests during fiscal years 2008-10:
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The White House today released an interactive map of excess properties maintained by the federal government. And, even better, it appears they made it with open-source tools. An explainer:
The Federal Government is the biggest property owner in the United States, and billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted each year on government properties that are no longer needed…. There are roughly 14,000 buildings and structures currently designated as excess and thousands of others that are underutilized. These properties range from sheds to underutilized office buildings and empty warehouses. Over 7,000 of these properties are plotted on this map, zoom in to see Excess Properties in your state and around the country.
You can zoom into a state or specific property and also download the data set. In this view, proportional symbols represent excess properties: