Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Davidson includes "transparency" in FY2017 budget.

In a recent meeting with Davidson town staff, we here at aShortChronicle were asked an interesting question.

"What is our agenda?"

Being asked that question makes us smile a little bit.  It means we've got their attention.

What was the answer to that question?

In large part, it has around improving the overall sense of transparency in local government.  Improving transparency should reduce the risk of repeating mistakes on the magnitude of MI-Connection.

So to that end, it's nice to see Davidson including a couple of transparency related items in the proposed FY2017 budget which will be approved in June.

Davidson plans to spend $8500 on new software to improve the Public Records request process.  The software from a vendor named Barracuda will allow the town clerk to more quickly search for emails across the system relating to a particular request.

Over the years, Davidson has actually been very responsive to records requests from aShortChronicle.  We've also instructed several other citizens on the how-tos if submitting requests as well.  Seeing the town take this step to make this process go even better is a positive thing.

We did recommend that the town implement a policy requiring elected officials always copy the town "Public Records" email box in the event they receive an email that should be public information to a private account such as their work account.

Next year's proposed budget also includes a request for $21,800 towards improved technology for live streaming Davidson public meetings.

This will be another step towards greater transparency by providing residents a more realistic option for watching meetings.  Currently, meetings are recorded using an iPad and while greatly appreciated, the sound quality in particular leaves something to be desired. Since Davidson implemented streaming of meetings last fall it has grown from just the regular monthly meetings to include Civics 101 classes as well as off site events such as Commissioner Chats at the Egg and other public information sessions like the one at the Beaver Dam House for the east side parks.

To date, 1900 user views have occurred which is likely several times the number of people who have actually attended these events.  It's particularly useful for events that occur during the work day.

Yes, $8,500 for an email archive and $21,800 for video is a lot of money.   However, the more people who are involved and watching what Town Hall does, the better.  If this money helps prevent anything even a fraction the size of the MI-Connection debacle, then it is money well spent.

1 comment:

  1. I make a similar point about transparency in Huntersville in the Herald column coming out on Thursday. Hopefully the Huntersville Town Board will adopt a policy regarding live streaming to ensure greater transparency in the future.