RecordTrac: Easy Access to Public Records

Meet “RecordTrac,” a new web application to help the City of Oakland manage and track incoming public record requests.

RecordTrac is core to the City’s goals of increased transparency, more efficient processes, and better access to public information. The app allows users to track progress of their requests step-by-step and saves staff resources by publicly archiving all fulfilled requests for anyone to access. This not only saves users time, but saves the City resources by not having to process a duplicate request.

“Oakland truly stands out because of its commitment to engaging a motivated community as well as its forward-thinking approach to openness and government transparency. I want to thank everyone involved for helping us take this step forward in our goal to be a more transparent, accountable government.”

– Oakland Mayor Jean Quan

Enacted in 1968, the California Public Records Act defines a “public record” as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” Code for America Fellow Richa Agarwal note, “Public Record Requests are one of the many ways in which governments interact with citizens, but capturing these interactions and shining a light on the process is really valuable. It’s a huge accomplishment for us to have Oakland adopt this, but my hope is that this is a tool other cities will choose to adopt as well.”

Oakland is not alone. Other cities are searching for better methods to respond to Public Record requests. As people become accustomed to finding information immediately online, government agencies throughout the United States are looking for tools that will allow them to increase efficiencies, while becoming more open and transparent. “This is an innovative solution that will make it easier for citizens to request information and data from their city government,” said Mark Headd, Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia. “We’ll be watching Oakland’s use of this new tool to see if we might be able to utilize it to respond to similar kinds of data requests here in Philadelphia.”

Oakland’s Public Records Request system was built in a way that it can easily be replicated elsewhere. As with all Code for America apps the code is on GitHub, allowing for the application to be easily and freely redeployed by other cities and government agencies.

“This new tool will be instrumental in our mission to ensure that all Oakland residents have easy and full access to information about our City’s business and that we conduct the people’s business in broad daylight.”

– Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker

The City of Oakland is grateful to the following foundations and companies for their generous contributions which have made the 2013 fellowship program possible: Akonadi Foundation, The William H. Donner Foundation, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, Accela and Pandora.

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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