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:
- 3179 public records requests
- 2289 followup messages sent
- 433 registered users
- 938 public bodies
- 115 annotations added to requests
- 269 tracked requests
Latest OPRA requests
Powered by the OPRAmachine API
- Arbitration Decision
Requested from: Atlantic City
Requested by: James Armstrong
Status: Partially successful.
Good morning, Attached is the response to your request from the City Solicitor’s Office. Thank you. MonicaWebb Assistant City Clerk...
- 119 DELAWARE AVE MOUNT EPHRAIM NJ 8059
Requested from: Haddon Township
Requested by: jessica martin
Dear Jessica Martin Thank you for your patience. These records are being transmitted to you via email, as per your request. Please see attachment...
- A request for a list of all licensed dog owners in Freehold Township
Requested from: Freehold Township
Requested by: James McMahon
Status: Follow up
Thank you. Yours sincerely, James McMahon
Chart of requests
Main OPRAmachine website.
Read updates about the project at our blog here.