Comment 50862

By Arcadia (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2010 at 13:42:11

turbo: just because you're not interested in this idea doesn't mean others aren't. You sound like a megalomaniac, demanding every article suit your precious sensitivities.

Anyway, I'm interested but clearly a cultural change is needed, as Ryan points out in his article. The city, like most organizations, sees no benefit from sharing information, and perhaps that's because ideas for change often seem high on techno-jargon and low on useful ideas. I think this will only take place if the city manager determines it's a priority and allocates resources towards it. Perhaps the clerk's office could be amalgamated into an office of information management, with a much larger mandate than the current 'information services', which looks like one of those understaffed outfits that mostly keeps the intranet running and manages electronic records. Or they implement a variety of institution-centric projects like http://map.hamilton.ca/.

Without that change you're left with very little. For instance, your idea of tracking the voting records. Maybe with a bit of creativity you'd be able to link it to the meeting minutes. However, as it stands these minutes tell you almost nothing about a meeting. In this respect Don McLean accomplishes what an entire city department should be doing - recording minutes and votes, transcribing important sessions, publishing the results. This isn't the savvy techno future you're describing, but it seems to me to be the essence of 'open data'. It's crazy the city doesn't do this itself. Apparently councillors are always asking Don what they said about a certain vote, because no one else is keeping track. The Clerk's purpose is administrative, meant to satisfy institutional requirements of 'accountability' and legal requirements, but it is functionally useless for anyone else. And as long as we're left to rely on citizen heroes to do this stuff I'm worried these ideas are nonstarters. You mention streaming meetings; that would be amazing. I emailed the Clerk and they told me they were 'looking into it but have no specific date'. ie it's never going to happen.

On the upside, I really think the city could be persuaded to see the value of this, but that value needs to be described in a way that the city benefits from it as well as residents.

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