When I joined the CA’s Budget Committee in 2004, I was astonished to learn the budgetary process was mostly shrouded in mystery. Meetings were not announced and prior year information was almost nonexistent. As a result, I made it a goal to open the CA’s financials. After our report was completed, I scanned it and posted it to my personal website. I also posted two prior reports given to me by Kathy Larson and Andy Stack.
When I was selected as chair of the committee the following year, I sought more openness. Reports and meeting schedules were made available though this website as soon as possible. Additionally, I simplified the Budget and Financial Advisory committee report formats to make them more accessible and understandable, rather than lengthy tables of opaque numbers.
I performed many of these same tasks on the Public Engagement in Land Use Planning Task Force. Much of the task force’s discussion took place in an open forum and email among members was automatically posted to our blog. I made drafts available to the public through Scribd and turned Bill Taylor’s video of the PELU public hearing into a streaming video you can watch seamlessly in your browser. When neither the CA nor the County had the tools, I used common off-the-shelf technology to let the sun shine in.
Openness is more than putting on a good face. Keeping the public informed keeps the public engaged and makes governing simpler. The CA has taken incredible steps these past few months in posting a video of a board meeting (I had volunteered the Financial Advisory Committee for a pilot project). But the CA can do more and this will be a priority if elected.