Syracuse, NY

Executive Order (Jul 26, 2017)

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Sunlight provided assistance with the development of this policy.

This city is part of the What Works Cities program.


Highlight text matching an Open Data Policy Guideline:




Section 1: Purpose

This policy establishes guidelines for an open data program in the City of Syracuse. The city collects and creates large amounts of valuable information on aspects of life in Syracuse. Through this program, the public as well as internal departments and bureaus, will have faster and easier access to data and information via an online portal. The city recognizes that making data available in this way increases civic engagement, internal efficiencies, and transparency, while also fostering communication. It is also anticipated that this will improve government efficiency for the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) officer and various staff who must satisfy FOIL requests. Data will be gradually released in a responsible manner, consistent with relevant public records law, and in consultation with the appropriate department heads. The information will be released in machine-readable formats. Finally, the protection of privacy, confidentiality and security will be maintained as a paramount priority while also advancing the government’s transparency and accountability through open data.

Section 2: Definitions

  1. “Data” means statistical, factual, quantitative, or qualitative information that is maintained or created by or on behalf of a city agency.
  2. “Open data” means data that is available online, in an open format, with no legal encumbrances on use or reuse, and is available for all to access and download in full without fees. “Legal encumbrance” includes federal copyright protections and other, non-statutory legal limitations on how or under what conditions a dataset may be used.
  3. “Machine-readable” means data in a format that can be automatically read and processed by a computer, such as CSV, JSON, and XML. Machine-readable data is structured data.
  4. “Dataset” means a named collection of related records, with the collection containing data organized or formatted in a specific or prescribed way, often in tabular form.
  5. “Protected information” means any dataset or portion thereof to which an agency may deny access pursuant to New York State’s Freedom of Information Laws or any other law or rule or regulation.
  6. “Sensitive information” means any data which, if published by the city online, could raise privacy, confidentiality or security concerns or have the potential to jeopardize public health, safety or welfare to an extent that is greater than the potential public benefit of publishing that data.
  7. “Publishable data” means data which is not protected or sensitive and which has been prepared for release to the public.

Section 3: Open Data Program

  1. The city commits to develop and implement practices that will allow it to:
    • Proactively release all publishable city data, making it freely available in open formats, with no restrictions on use or reuse, and fully accessible to the broadest range of users to use for varying purposes;
    • Publish high quality, updated data with documentation (metadata) and permanence to encourage maximum use;
    • Provide or support access to free, historical archives of all released city data;
    • Measure the effectiveness of datasets made available through the Open Data Program by connecting open data efforts to the city’s programmatic priorities;
    • Minimize limitations on the disclosure of public information while appropriately safeguarding protected and sensitive information; and
    • Support innovative uses of the city’s publishable data by agencies, the public, and other partners.
  2. The development and implementation of these practices shall be overseen by the Chief Data Officer, reporting to the Chief of Staff.
  3. The requirements of this policy shall apply to any city department, office, administrative unit, commission, board, advisory committee, bureau, or other division of city government, including the records of third party agency contractors that create or acquire information, records, or data on behalf of a city agency.
  4. Priorities for data release will be determined by the Chief Data Officer with guidance from heads of departments or assigned designees, input from the public, and ultimately approval by the corporation counsel’s office and the Mayor or another top-level administration designee.

Section 4: Governance

  1. Implementation of the Open Data Program will be overseen by the Chief Data Officer, who will work with the city’s departments to:
    • Identify and publish appropriate contact information for a lead open data coordinator who will be responsible for managing that agency’s participation in the Open Data Program;
    • Oversee the creation of a comprehensive inventory of datasets held by each city agency which is published to the central open data location and is regularly updated;
    • Develop and implement a process for determining the relative level of risk and public benefit associated with potentially sensitive, non-protected information so as to make a determination about whether and how to publish it;
    • Develop and implement a process for prioritizing the release of datasets which takes into account new and existing signals of interest from the public (such as the frequency of public records requests), the city's programmatic priorities, existing opportunities for data use in the public interest, and cost;
    • Proactively consult with members of the public, agency staff, and other stakeholders to identify the datasets which will have the greatest benefit to city residents if published in a high quality manner;
    • Establish processes for publishing datasets to the central open data location, including processes for ensuring that datasets are high quality, up-to-date, are in use-appropriate formats, and exclude protected and sensitive information;
    • Ensure that appropriate metadata is provided for each dataset in order to facilitate its use;
    • Develop and oversee a routinely updated, public timeline for new dataset publication; and
    • Ensure that published datasets are available for bulk download without legal encumbrance.
  2. In order to increase and improve use of the city’s open data, the [individual or group] will actively encourage agency and public participation through providing regular opportunities for feedback and collaboration.

Section 5: Central Online Location for Published Data

  1. The city will create and maintain a publicly available location on the city's website or in another suitable online location where the city’s published data will be available for download.
  2. Published datasets shall be placed into the public domain. Dedicating datasets to the public domain means that there are no restrictions or requirements placed on use of these datasets.
  3. Each published dataset should be associated with contact information for the appropriate manager of that dataset as well as with a file layout or data dictionary that provides information about field labels and values.

Section 6: Open Data

  1. Within one year of the effective date of this directive, and thereafter no later than December 31 of each year, the Chief Data Officer shall publish an annual Open Data Report. The report shall include an assessment of progress towards achievement of the goals of the city’s Open Data Program, an assessment of how the city’s open data work has furthered or will further the city’s programmatic priorities, and a description and publication timeline for datasets envisioned to be published by the city in the following year.
  2. During the review and reporting period, the Chief Data Officer should also make suggestions for improving the city’s open data management processes in order to ensure that the city continues to move towards the achievement of the policy’s goals.


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