Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keeping San Angelo Citizens Informed

After finding the City Council agenda for February 21 on Saturday, I searched for the agenda packet, which often runs into hundreds of pages.  I checked both the City web site and SlideShare for a document to peruse.  As of Monday evening, I felt shut out.

The next day I questioned if the City posted the packet on a "Council Live" story by Matthew Waller.  He responded:

Something went wrong, and the city didn't get the packet released until I requested it Monday.
With the leadership change, I can be patient as kinks are worked out.  I expect Interim City Manager Michael Dane to pick up the openness, given his award-winning transparency in the CFO slot.

I followed up with Ty Meighan, Public Information Officer, on the late posting issue.  He wrote:

It was posted on there Monday. I know because my office posted it this time for the city clerk and the Standard-Times accessed it. We did not use Slideshare  because they now want to charge us for posting items that take up significant space.
Here's SlideShare's pricing, $19 a month:

I'm not saying the City should spend $228 a year on SlideShare, but they should make it clear to the interested public the ways they can locate the agenda, its supporting packet and any presentations made at the Council meeting.  

The City had an RFP out for a website overhaul last fall.  They might wish to house documents there vs. SlideShare.  While change is in the works, please give the public a chance to be informed.. That means more than the day before.

Update 3-2-12:  The City posted the March 6 agenda on its website and the meeting packet on SlideShare   That gives people the weekend to peruse the material, a distinct improvement/return to form.

Update 4-28-12:  The new website vendor is an agenda item for the May 1 meeting.

Update 5-5-12:  The City's free Slideshare account is now restricted to 10 MB uploads.


Jim Turner said...

We have been fighting to get the agenda packet online for several years. A couple years ago, they started putting it online as one big pdf, just like they did last Monday. The space they had available on their website for these packets was limited, and they almost never had more than the 2 latest online. Started saving them and have all the packets going back through 2010.

They went to slideshare because it was simple and offered a bunch of space "free" and they could put power points, etc. all together in one place. Now, they've reached the point that slideshare wants to charge them a minor fee.

The city already has a very expensive hosting package with limited space available. Doing what Ty Meighan is doing now will mean that they will be out of room in a very short time.

It's time for the city government to redo it's website and hosting plan. One of the problems, I've been told, is that the current system is about as user friendly as a mugging.

This is sad, especially when they could get web hosting from someone like godaddy for about $10/month that would have no storage limits.

Jim Turner said...

One further comment, We started saying they needed a new package several years ago and were told that it would be in "the next budget". That was before they started putting the packets online for the upcoming meeting. We wanted to ensure that the packet the public saw was the packet that council saw, minus executive session material. I know that we are getting it from a different spot and in different formats then the council members do.

They need to look at the system SAISD uses for their packets. I will believe they are going to upgrade their system when I see it.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of information COSA Development Corporation leaves out when it presents its items to City Council. Texas Local Government Code is written such that Type B Municipal Development Corporations can operate privately and their actions / dealings are obscured from public view. Whatever they want to present in Council Chambers is their choice, and they know that.

We need to expose the truth about the Texas Development Corporation Act of 1979 and its deliberate obfuscation of the use of public funds and municipalities rights to inspect documents.

Yes, there's FOIA, but that forces individuals to go on record as a person seeking specific information, and unfortunately most people feel like that automatically makes them suspect.

Jim Turner said...

Well, this time they got the agenda packet posted on Friday, and they used slideshare again. I guess they figured out how to do it.

Anonymous, the agenda's for the Development Corporation (COSADC) are on line on the cities website, and the meetings are public meetings. They are subject to open meetings and public information acts, just like city council is. If they can hide it, so could city council. And don't confuse FOIA, which is federal, with the Texas open government acts (Open Meetings, Public Information). In Texas you don't have to give a reason why you want the information. Unless it fits into one of the exceptions they have to give it to you. Even then, they have to clear the denial with the Attorney General. You can also have someone else request information for you. The Texas Attorney General has several pamphlets and handbooks online to help with this.

I guess what I'm saying is your complaint is just as valid against code enforcement, the planning division, or the water department.

PEU Report/State of the Division said...

JWT, I'd just added my update on the agenda packet and slideshare when I found your comment. Good work.