Getting Towns To Go Online

Getting Towns To Go Online

There are 32 comments on the Hartford Courant story from Feb 3, 2009, titled Getting Towns To Go Online. In it, Hartford Courant reports that:

The state law requiring cities and towns to post minutes of their meetings on their websites is not a heavy burden.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Hartford Courant.

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Cut the costs

Laurel, IN

#1 Feb 4, 2009
These towns and cities who refuse to post things on line are just stupid. They're either lazy or they're afraid of having the truth on line. What's even dumber, is that so much of what they do, can be done online and it would save costs and aggravation. Everything from building permits to requests for bulk trash removal should be able to be applied for, or bought on line, including filing a police complaint, and the results of that complaint. It's about accountability and about costs and responsiveness to the overtaxed property owner struggling under a growing tax burden for living in this overtaxed, over-regulated state.
Franklin P

Canterbury, CT

#2 Feb 4, 2009
Posting the minutes shouldn't really cost anything, assuming the town already has a website - what does it take to convert a document to pdf or html & uploading it? My 93 year old dad has a website & can do it in about 10 minutes.
Citizen

Marion, CT

#3 Feb 4, 2009
The law is misguided. It provides deadlines on how fast the minutes must be posted, which is unreasonable. As a result minutes are less thorough than before. In my town they've always posted minutes on the website, but because of the new law, the content included makes them much less useful.
Reality Check

East Hartford, CT

#4 Feb 4, 2009
I agree Citizen, most people reading this opinion piece do not realize what the law says and how much a hardship it actually is for a town that is served by volunteer boards. That's the crux not the posting mechanisms.

You might want to thank all the gadflies that pushed for this law.
Open Gov 101

Guilford, CT

#5 Feb 4, 2009
The clerk has always had only one week to file the paper copy of the minutes with the Town Clerk. The time frame has not changed. The clerk for the board or commission just has to email their word document to their webmaster to edit and convert it to a pdf and add the link to the web page. This process takes 10 - 15 minutes depending on how many edits must be made in the clerk's document. The document must be formatted for easy readability on the web. It is not a great hardship to provide open government.
Reality Check

East Hartford, CT

#6 Feb 4, 2009
Open Gov 101 wrote:
The clerk has always had only one week to file the paper copy of the minutes with the Town Clerk. The time frame has not changed. The clerk for the board or commission just has to email their word document to their webmaster to edit and convert it to a pdf and add the link to the web page. This process takes 10 - 15 minutes depending on how many edits must be made in the clerk's document. The document must be formatted for easy readability on the web. It is not a great hardship to provide open government.
I disagree with your assumption it is not a hardship. May be not for North Branford, but it is for the smaller towns who have not only volunteer boards but also part time halp. Personally, if you want a report of meeting it is really not too much to get yourself to town hall and make a copy.
Open Gov 101

Guilford, CT

#7 Feb 4, 2009
Reality Check your are living in the 1950's.
Does your boss give you time to go to town hall to get a copy of the minutes? This is the 21st century and people need to keep the boss happy so they can keep their job and feed their family. It would be nice to easily use the web to see what those volunteers are doing with your hard earned money without jeopardizing your job.

BTW Everyone's boards are volunteer. Your town is not much different than any other town in the state. The problem is that most small town governments have technophobic staff that are resistant to learning new technology. I see it everyday. Some training may help these staff members become more productive and update their skills.
Possible solution: Why not use interns from local colleges and universities to help with updating your web sites. It is a win win for both the town and the student and it is free.
bill

Hartford, CT

#8 Feb 4, 2009
Here's a great opportunity for the towns to think out of the box and possibly do some regionalization. Talk the to the IT department in Manchester. We've had televised meetings(BOD & BOE) on cable for years but now they are in the process of rolling out streaming video of the meetings on the website. Meaning you will be able to watch them anytime, playback parts and hear the actual words rather than read a few sentences and try to understand what was going on.
Why take all these small steps? That's how you get farther behind. Here's a proven system of what works. Understand how they did it and what it takes and move in that direction.
You do another year of patronizing to these towns complaining about this and towns like Manchester will have the meetings broadcasted on your cell phone by then.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#9 Feb 4, 2009
Meeting minutes have to be done no matter what, the deadline is nothing new, they just need to be posted online. If whoever does the meeting minutes now cant be bothered to do them in a timely fashion they shouldnt be working for the town. If the town maintains a website this is hardly a hardship as they should have updated information frequently. what good is a website if it is not up to date?
Taxpayer

Monroe, CT

#10 Feb 4, 2009
Apathy and lack of information go hand in hand. It's a political trick to hold meetings at irregular times, to push through agendas too important for taxpayers to be part of the decision making process. Take that away, and politicians lose their power to legislate.

Why does it take so long to copy notes and put them on line? Because they need to be amended not to incriminate? Taxpayers should be pushing hard for to know who's saying what at their town meetings.
mikey

Newington, CT

#11 Feb 4, 2009
Open Gov 101 wrote:
Reality Check your are living in the 1950's.
Does your boss give you time to go to town hall to get a copy of the minutes? This is the 21st century and people need to keep the boss happy so they can keep their job and feed their family. It would be nice to easily use the web to see what those volunteers are doing with your hard earned money without jeopardizing your job.
BTW Everyone's boards are volunteer. Your town is not much different than any other town in the state. The problem is that most small town governments have technophobic staff that are resistant to learning new technology. I see it everyday. Some training may help these staff members become more productive and update their skills.
Possible solution: Why not use interns from local colleges and universities to help with updating your web sites. It is a win win for both the town and the student and it is free.
Not to mention that most of these small towns have odd ball hours and are almost never open before 9 or after 5 .
Rick

North Salem, NY

#12 Feb 4, 2009
The problem for small towns with small budgets who are struggling to keep cost under control is the this mandate requires that they create another paid position.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#13 Feb 4, 2009
Rick wrote:
The problem for small towns with small budgets who are struggling to keep cost under control is the this mandate requires that they create another paid position.
What paid position needs to be created? why is it so hard to just train the person who does the minutes to upload them to the site or email it to whoever maintains the site? It would be ridiculous for any town to even think about hiring someone whose sole purpose would be uploading meeting minutes.
nick

Stamford, CT

#14 Feb 4, 2009
Rick wrote:
The problem for small towns with small budgets who are struggling to keep cost under control is the this mandate requires that they create another paid position.
Any document that has to be typed can be scanned and converted to any kind of PDF or Word Doc in about 2 minutes and uploaded to the website in three. Is that a hardship?
David Bauer

Higganum, CT

#15 Feb 4, 2009
Here's an unfunded mandate that is good for democracy but more of the same autocratic bad management from our State Legislature.

Why doesn't the State IT create the Web resources that make posting agendas and minutes and lots of other services that could save all CT municipalities a lot of money?

I am sure that many CT towns would gladly pay their cost to plug into an official CT Web service that would make compliance easy.

Does this make too much sense to do?
Citizen

Newington, CT

#16 Feb 4, 2009
Chris1982 wrote:
Meeting minutes have to be done no matter what, the deadline is nothing new, they just need to be posted online. If whoever does the meeting minutes now cant be bothered to do them in a timely fashion they shouldnt be working for the town. If the town maintains a website this is hardly a hardship as they should have updated information frequently. what good is a website if it is not up to date?
The law applies to all boards and commissions. It also requires that agendas be posted at least 24 hours in advance. If a town employee's a webmaster for a half day a week to keep the site current, they can't comply with the law. If you don't meet the requirements of the law, you risk frivolous lawsuits. The law must be changed.
CzaReekie

Salem, OR

#17 Feb 4, 2009
Here is your fix --

1. Scan the document
2. Save the document

The minutes are send via email to various people within the town hall organization (that's an oxy moron, should be town hall disorganization). The website can be updated at that same time - how long does it take to update? MINUTES - not hours.

Utilize interns. Have the meetings tape and then transcribed - you don't need a full time position for this. Work smarter, not harder.

If the people that have been voted in cannot make simple business decision such as posting minutes and agendas in a timely manner, why are they there?

Do a Google search using "foi" and "town of" and CT - you'll find some real gems. Accountability starts with transparency.

Ok - now start slamming because I stated the obvious and gave a solution that made people accountable. How dare I expect my elected officials to be accountable for their actions and document meetings.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#18 Feb 4, 2009
Citizen wrote:
<quoted text>
The law applies to all boards and commissions. It also requires that agendas be posted at least 24 hours in advance. If a town employee's a webmaster for a half day a week to keep the site current, they can't comply with the law. If you don't meet the requirements of the law, you risk frivolous lawsuits. The law must be changed.
Posting documents is a simple process! you dont need to be a webmaster to do it, simply train whoever writes the minutes to upload them to the site or train a full time employee to collect all the minutes agendas from the various boards/commissions and upload them. If the town has a website it should be maintained often and posting these documents is hardly a hardship if they even maintain the website once a week.
nick

Stamford, CT

#19 Feb 4, 2009
David Bauer wrote:
Here's an unfunded mandate that is good for democracy but more of the same autocratic bad management from our State Legislature.
Why doesn't the State IT create the Web resources that make posting agendas and minutes and lots of other services that could save all CT municipalities a lot of money?
I am sure that many CT towns would gladly pay their cost to plug into an official CT Web service that would make compliance easy.
Does this make too much sense to do?
Duplication of effort..town still need someone familair with IT to keep information current, and update.

It is a good idea for the state to host it and use templates for each town so information would be standardized.
Citizen

Newington, CT

#20 Feb 4, 2009
Chris1982 wrote:
<quoted text>
Posting documents is a simple process! you dont need to be a webmaster to do it, simply train whoever writes the minutes to upload them to the site or train a full time employee to collect all the minutes agendas from the various boards/commissions and upload them. If the town has a website it should be maintained often and posting these documents is hardly a hardship if they even maintain the website once a week.
Maybe I'm computer inept, but posting pdf files seems to be a lousy solution. They need to be in some sort of database supported by keyword searching.

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