Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Open Government - The Next Step

In today's information age, citizens are demanding more access to local government than ever before. Despite good intentions, government agencies can fall behind the technological curve and thus fall short of meeting these requests. Technology to provide public access has become abundantly available at extremely low costs and now is the time for local government to rethink its strategy and provide more information than ever before.

Currently the city of Fort Wayne does a decent job of providing information to the citizenry. The council meetings are on cable television and the individual members are accessible as well. The new administration has also gone the extra mile by hiring a second public information officer to help the situation. Still there is much more we can do.

Recently councilman Mitch Harper has taken to podcasting the audio of the city council meetings. While this is a step in the right direction it's a step we should be able to completely skip as we look toward implementing better solutions.

Public advocacy group Fort Wayne Public 1 is requesting that the administration and the council consider forming a Public Access Board to identify new ways the city can provide information to the public. I am a strong proponent of this idea as the most efficient way to provide these services is to gather input from the public on what information is wanted and how that information should be disseminated. I feel that this board would not only help meet citizen requests, but also help the city become a national example of how local government can and should provide public access.

The following letter was sent today by Fort Wayne Public 1 to the city council, mayor and deputy mayor:
Since its inaugural meeting in December, Fort Wayne Public I has been actively espousing the principles of Open Government in the Fort Wayne community at all levels of public governance. There are a host of possible courses of changes that could be explored to further citizen interest and involvement in civic affairs through principles of open government—a goal all agree is worth pursuing and achieving.

Public I has prepared an Issue Paper including several avenues for recommended changes. Its final draft will be shared with interested parties at the City, County, Township levels of governance, as well as such public bodies as the School Boards, Library Board, and Housing Authority.

The Fort Wayne City Council could now seize the opportunity to lead an initiative to explore improvements in increasing citizen knowledge, access, and involvement in civic affairs. As a springboard for dialogue, Public I would be privileged to share the Issue Paper on this important issue.

This is a request to the Fort Wayne Common Council to form either a Public Access Board or a Public Access Advisory Committee to explore and recommend specific open government changes designed to ensure an informed and involved citizenry. This entity would consist of representation and leadership from Council members and include other public entities and public citizens.

Public I pledges cooperation in such an innovative endeavor. It is an opportunity for the City of Fort Wayne to be a model for other communities by adopting a proactive model and expressing a commitment to explore changes to further strengthen the public trust between public bodies and the citizens of the community.

We thank you for your consideration of this request.


Daniel J. Jehl, Coordinator
Fort Wayne Public I

1 comment:

Sornie said...

If the government agencies have nothing to hide, make the info available to the public.