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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Laslo

Enfield, CT

#21 Feb 4, 2009
Why should the state dictate this stuff? If the people of a town want to do this, they will demand it of their town government. If they don't care, leave them the hell alone.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#22 Feb 4, 2009
Citizen wrote:
<quoted text>
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.
they dont just post them willy nilly, they can be put in a certain directory that will be easily accessible…can you search keywords in paper files now? Its not going to be any different than a paper filing system other than the fact that is accessible 24/7 to the citizens. Check farmingtons site, I know they have been posting meeting minutes and agendas for a few years and you can see how it works.
Laura

Plainville, CT

#23 Feb 4, 2009
Courant's editorial makes no sense, taking aim at the wrong side of government. The statute says that IF a city or town maintains a website, then the minutes must be posted within a specified period. There's no law that says the city or town must have a website. So, if the method Harwinton and others choose for compliance is to take down the website, that's fine. That complies with the law.

If the Courant doesn't like that solution, then it should write an editorial saying there ought to be a law requiring CT cities and towns to have websites. Why not? This is CT, the Land of Endless Money. While they're at it, they might consider mandating that all towns provide their citizens with computers, so they can access the mandated minutes on the mandated websites.
Not born yesterday

West Yarmouth, MA

#24 Feb 4, 2009
The more light shines on local governments, the better.

But many small towns have websites designed by volunteers that are difficult for undertrained computer-phobic town employees to keep updated because they use antiquated software or techniques.

A state-sponsored system (that sounds a bit scary, but could actually be a good idea in this case) that provides a modern Content Management System and help-desk support for towns who wish to use it is a great idea. Making updates super-easy to do for town employees/volunteers wouldn't be that hard for system designers who know what they're doing. But expecting this expertise to fall from the sky for free 168 times for each separate town is not realistic.
Citizen

Branford, CT

#25 Feb 4, 2009
Chris1982 wrote:
<quoted text>
they dont just post them willy nilly, they can be put in a certain directory that will be easily accessible…can you search keywords in paper files now? Its not going to be any different than a paper filing system other than the fact that is accessible 24/7 to the citizens. Check farmingtons site, I know they have been posting meeting minutes and agendas for a few years and you can see how it works.
Thanks, I checked it out. But unless you know the date of the meeting in question, finding anything is tedious to impossible. Check out South Windsor's site. It supports keyword search and links you to the meeting minutes of your topic. Unfortunately, since this law was passed, the minutes maintained aren't nearly as thorough as they were before. The town manager blamed it on the new law.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#26 Feb 4, 2009
Laura wrote:
Courant's editorial makes no sense, taking aim at the wrong side of government. The statute says that IF a city or town maintains a website, then the minutes must be posted within a specified period. There's no law that says the city or town must have a website. So, if the method Harwinton and others choose for compliance is to take down the website, that's fine. That complies with the law.
If the Courant doesn't like that solution, then it should write an editorial saying there ought to be a law requiring CT cities and towns to have websites. Why not? This is CT, the Land of Endless Money. While they're at it, they might consider mandating that all towns provide their citizens with computers, so they can access the mandated minutes on the mandated websites.
nowhere in this editorial did i read anything about requiring towns to have websites so i dont know what you are talking about...

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#27 Feb 4, 2009
Citizen wrote:
<quoted text>
Thanks, I checked it out. But unless you know the date of the meeting in question, finding anything is tedious to impossible. Check out South Windsor's site. It supports keyword search and links you to the meeting minutes of your topic. Unfortunately, since this law was passed, the minutes maintained aren't nearly as thorough as they were before. The town manager blamed it on the new law.
its up to the individual town as to how they are posted as long as they are available, like i said can you keyword search in paper files anyway? and the town manager can blame it on the law all he wants but id be blaming the lazy employee who does the minutes if they decided to write up less thorough minutes and somehow blame the law for it, there is no reason for less thorough minutes under the new law
DJH

Winsted, CT

#28 Feb 4, 2009
Here's how it works now. Someone already has to type minutes into a computer on a deadline. Nothing new there.

But in addition to saving the minutes as a computer file, they have to post it to a Web site as well.

How long does that take? Let's see.

1. Open "print" dialog in the same program you just used to save the document.

2. Print to PDF file (using free software already installed on the same computer).

3. Choose a file location to "save" the PDF file, which is actually an FTP upload to the town's Web server.(In Windows an FTP connection can be just another drive letter.)

4. Type in a name for the PDF file and click "Save."

5. PDF writing software generates the PDF and saves it to the Web server via FTP.

All above steps take less than one minute to complete. The longest part of it is the PDF rendering, which could take anywhere from a few seconds to half a minute (assuming the document is long and complex, which is highly unlikely when you're talking about meeting minutes.)

The additional work involved is trivial. It's like having to save the file a second time to a different location. Nothing more than that.

The idea that this process represents "additional work" and is an "unfunded mandate" is, quite simply, a lie. Time for these towns to grow up and stop bellyaching over something which is NOT the hardship they claim it to be.

Having said that, there ARE some legitimately expensive unfunded mandates on the towns. Those need to be addressed ... and fast. But having to upload minutes to a Web site on deadline, is not one of them.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#29 Feb 5, 2009
DJH wrote:
snip
right on the money, there is no reason this should be as big an issue as the towns have made it out to be. they are there to serve the citizens and most citizens are unable to make it during regular business hours so this is something that will make things available to those people.
Laura

Plainville, CT

#30 Feb 5, 2009
Chris1982 wrote:
<quoted text>
nowhere in this editorial did i read anything about requiring towns to have websites so i dont know what you are talking about...
Yeah, well that's kind of the point. There is no requirement that towns even have a website. So, in effect, there is no actual requirement that towns post minutes on the internet. The editorial castigted towns for pulling their websites... but that is exactly what the law permits them to do if they feel they can't post the minutes in time to comply.
CzaReekie

Salem, OR

#31 Feb 5, 2009
Laura wrote:
<quoted text>
Yeah, well that's kind of the point. There is no requirement that towns even have a website. So, in effect, there is no actual requirement that towns post minutes on the internet. The editorial castigted towns for pulling their websites... but that is exactly what the law permits them to do if they feel they can't post the minutes in time to comply.
No one told the towns to shut down their websites - the towns made that decision themselves. The issue at hand is the timely posting of meeting minutes and agendas.

This a good example of the powers that be in Connecticut finding a loophole that suits them.

Oh boo hoo, we don't have time to update our website, but we have time to be a president on the board representing small towns (right, susie bransfield??).

Make the time - the minutes are already being typed up - this isn't rocket science. What are town officials so afraid of - a little accountability?

Most of these little fiefdoms are run like "Lord of the Flies." The only way for tax payers to get the real story is to go to meetings. In Portland, what is said live vs what is listed in the minutes are wildly different.

Since: Jul 08

Portland

#32 Feb 5, 2009
Laura wrote:
<quoted text>
Yeah, well that's kind of the point. There is no requirement that towns even have a website. So, in effect, there is no actual requirement that towns post minutes on the internet. The editorial castigted towns for pulling their websites... but that is exactly what the law permits them to do if they feel they can't post the minutes in time to comply.
The towns were rightfully called out on it! The point of the law was to make information more readily available to the citizens and what does the town do? It decides to pull down all the information (the whole website) because they decided its too much work for them to serve the citizens of that town and whine about how it’s a hardship when its far from one.

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