Obama on Recovery.gov

Just moments ago, President Obama, in his town hall-style meeting in unemployment-battered Elkhart, Indiana, just fleshed out his views of what Recovery.gov, the administration’s own stimulus watching Web site, will be designed to do.

“We’re actually going to set up something called Recovery.gov—this is going to be a special website we set up, that gives you a report on where the money is going in your community, how it’s being spent, how many jobs it’s being created so that all of you can be the eyes and ears. And if you see that a project is not working the way it’s supposed to, you’ll be able to get on that website and say, ‘You know, I thought this was supposed to be going to school construction but I haven’t noticed any changes being made.’ And that will help us track how this money is being spent. …The key is that we’re going to have strong oversight and strong transparency to make sure this money isn’t being wasted.”

That’s far more detail on Recovery.gov than is written into either congressional stimulus bill. And it’s a vision that I’m sure many in the transparency community will first hail, and as $800 billion or so in federal funds are disbursed, will then hold Obama to meeting.

While quite naturally the president didn’t get into the information architecture that would support such a system—will the underlying data be public and easily adaptable by third party innovators and watchdogs?—he’s talking in terms quite similar to the techno-sousveillance community.

While any implementation remains sometime away, to hear this rhetoric coming from the mouth of the president is nothing short of remarkable.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.