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Open government considerations grow as public demands results

September 13, 2013

Citizens' expectations for their town, county or city council's adherence to transparency and open government efforts are increasing at a rapid pace. Growing concern for open access to data, open source formats and public access to meetings is creating resentment, or happiness, depending on the local council's efforts in these areas.

According to the Rapid City Journal, two publications printed key editorials from concerned citizens regarding open and transparent government. The Watertown Public Opinion published an article covering the use of the internet and video conferences to boost meeting attendance remotely and help those interested in at least viewing the sessions to do so. Improved meeting agenda management solutions can keep locals informed of the meeting topics and schedules, while streaming video lets them make sure they don't miss a word. The editorial notes other government offices across South Dakota that have already implemented similar solutions.

The Daily Republic, on the other hand, pointed out the need for improved meeting minutes software to keep track of and provide access to minutes after sessions conclude. Providing even just the key facts regarding the topics discussed at council meetings will boost public awareness and increase participation in meetings in the future.

Beyond these editorials, however, the Twin Falls Times-News recently published its own editorial covering increased need for transparency efforts in Jerome, Idaho. The paper urged citizens to approach city council members and demand a change regarding their policies on opening meetings up to the public and removing secrecy from their operations surrounding budget matters.

"What Jerome officials don't understand is they're actually making the situation worse by cowering behind poor legal interpretations," the paper noted. "One story turns into three or four. Instead of looking bad for a day or two, they're generating ongoing coverage about a secretive local government."

Investing in high-quality meeting management services and related software can be a key way to boost transparency with little extra effort. By having the right tools in place and adapting to the policies set down by state and the federal administration, city, county and town officials can meeting the expectations of the public with ease - and avoid the issues that some other cities have had in the recent past regarding coverups and criticism.

Transparency is part of democracy, not a desire of the people, and adhering to it is expected of every government body large and small.