Winner of the 2019 Excellence in Local News Award
OPRAmachine won in the “Innovate Local” category for the site’s innovative approach to public records. Details about the award are available here.
Opening up New Jersey government
OPRAmachine.com is a first of its kind government transparency project that I recently launched to serve the citizens of the state of New Jersey. The site is powered by the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a freedom of information law that allows any citizen of the state to request public records from state and local government agencies.
How it works
OPRAmachine is breaking down barriers by explaining aspects of the OPRA request process. The site allows any citizen to easily file a legally valid public records request and includes a directory that currently includes all 565 municipalities in the state, as well as various state and county governmental agencies. The site has enabled requesters to obtain thousands of pages worth of public records, helping to shine a light on some of the more obscure elements of New Jersey state and local government.
A unique benefit that OPRAmachine provides is that once a public entity provides documents in response to a request, the documents are subsequently stored in the site’s database and made public, allowing the entire public to be able to reap the benefits. This model reduces duplicate requests and serves to further the OPRA law’s purpose of maximizing the citizenry’s knowledge of public affairs.
Thousands of pages released
Since its inception in October, 2017, the OPRAmachine platform has enabled the release of thousands of pages of government documents. Our database of public bodoies currently includes all 565 municipalities in New Jersey, with more public bodies being added on a regular basis. The site has been making an impact and has been used as a research tool by public officials, journalists and activists seeking to obtain authoritative information about public entities in the state. We recently added a documentation that includes detailed information about the process of making a request through the site, as well as reference material concerning the legal and site administration issues that may arise as a result of the site’s operation.
Praise for OPRAmachine
“One of the most important tools making New Jersey government more transparent.” - Citizens Media TV
“Thanks to Gavin Rozzi’s “OPRA Machine” website, the Atlantic County Government can no longer pretend to be transparent. Now they must do it for real.” - Atlantic County News
“The latest installation of our Alaveteli software, OPRAmachine, is an interesting new use of the platform. Rather than covering a whole country, as most of the other Alaveteli installations around the world do, it services just a single US state.” - Gemma Moulder, of the UK-based mySociety, which created the open-source software that powers the OPRAmachine platform.
OPRAmachine’s impact in New Jersey
Following four months of work, I reflected on some of the accomplishments of the web service in this blog post.
By the numbersSince October, 2017, OPRAmachine has seen:
- 4164 public records requests
- 3066 followup messages sent
- 609 registered users
- 1110 public bodies
- 134 annotations added to requests
- 323 tracked requests
Latest OPRA requests
Powered by the OPRAmachine API
- All Police/EMS Calls and Responses for 100 Century Dr
Requested from: Egg Harbor Township
Requested by: OCSN 32
Attached is the response to your OPRA request. Thanks, Sharon Woolbert Records Room Supervisor Egg Harbor Township Police Department...
- Police Calls for 925 NJ-166
Requested from: Toms River Township
Requested by: OCSN 32
Good Day, Attached is the list of calls for the Parkway Motel. Carlton “Sam” Seaman Records Bureau Supervisor Toms River Police Dept....
- OPRA request on 1101 Egret Ct. Forked River, NJ 08731
Requested from: Lacey Township
Requested by: ESTHERMARIE GALLICCHIO
March 12, 2019 Please see the attached information that you requested via OPRA on March 11^th. Thank you. Cathy D’Anduono Lacey To...
Chart of requests
Main OPRAmachine website.
Read updates about the project at our blog here.