Come Clean

It is time for the City to live up to the rhetoric of Openness and Transparency.
During this past campaign, a request was made to open the city books. Create a process and procedure that allows the Cities records, which for the most part are public records, to be posted on the City website.
There are numerous concerns, which are appreciated.
The site could include a delay of one quarter prior to posting.
The City could use the site as a small revenue stream, if they were creative enough to think the process through.
Why not create a database, open source, that would mesh with the States databases, to allow compatability. It would be semi-public. This means that the database is on line and available for the public to use but would require a password and the payment of a small fee to access. The small fee would be based on historic records and can be modified over time based on the database usage statistics.

So, assume that the current user to the city website views 4 pages with each visit. This data should be gathered via the web statistics which I assume the city keeps.
Also, assume the average cost per page for requested, hardcopy information is $0.25. Then that cost times 4 pages is a charge of $1.00.
The starting fee for each access to the data would be $1.00. That is one way of setting an access fee.
This fee could be determined in numerous other ways but should never be more than a corresponding fee for hardcopy data.
The main difference would be that for a hardcopy request the City can charge one for a persons payrate to look up and copy that info. This database would not have any personal rate charges, since you are doing the search, not a city employee.
Information which is currently excluded from public data by law would continue to be excluded.
The city would open it’s books, maintain it’s ability to link to State mandated datastructures and reporting databases. It would continue to charge for Freedom of Information requests, but that would be on-line utilizing a password and credit card or paypal payment for each access to the data. The data would be secure from change by outside persons. It could be searched, viewed but not changed except by authorized City personnell.
These requests are not pie in the sky. Cities throughout the Nation are implementing similar schemes.
Step up and let’s move into the 21st Century with our openness and transparency.
Empty phrases for electioneering? I hope not. It’s your right to see how the government works. Open the books and show us that you are worthy of the trust the voter bestows on you.
Executive order, departmental request or council resolution…. any of these processes should work to get the ball rolling. Create a plan to open the City and School Department registers. Integrate it into the daily work of the employees. Allow restricted access to the public on a pay-per-view process. Set up the IT infrastructure and let’s start the discussion.
What does the public want?

admin posted at 2009-11-15 Category: Uncategorized

2 Responses Leave a comment

  1. #1jgodsey @ 2009-11-15 11:34

    you know i read this three times and it still made no sense.
    i doubt a penny ante city like Methuen can use a website to generate income…much larger smarter corporations can’t figure that out.
    if the site weren’t free no one would visit it.

  2. #2Jack Burke @ 2009-11-15 23:49

    The whole site is free except for the finance register. That is posted but requires a fee to access. That part of the website would make it easier for people who generally use Freedom of information requests to get their data immediately after paying a fee that they already pay.(There is a fee for an FOI request anyway.) Basically it automates the FOI request and makes it easier and cheaper to request data that is in the public domain.

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