Annals of open government

It’s not too late to respond to the survey on the City’s Web site about needed improvements to that site. It’s open through January 4. I’m thinking about answering the questionnaire again because of something discovered only today. There’s a page linking to the text of some, not all, proposed amendments to the Austin code of ordinances. Here’s a proviso on the page of links:

“This is not a complete listing of all code amendments initiated by the City Council or Planning Commission. If you do not see a code amendment listed on this website, contact the city staff person listed on the notice or agenda for information about the amendment. This website is periodically updated. For up-to-date information about an amendment, contact the city staff listed for the code amendment.”

Why the limitation? Why the secrecy? It’s not as though this material isn’t stored in electronic form for reference by select public employees. There’s a great deal of material relating to proposals that could, if enacted, affect all of us. And the descriptive language seems designed to be vague; it’s not even so specific as what’s mandated for proposed state legislation. Even with its limitations, for all those interested in the slightest in municipal government and its workings, this is a good page to bookmark. By the way, title 25 provisions concern land development, and those of title 30 deal with Austin and Travis County subdivision regulations.

2 Comments so far

  1. chip (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

    Pete Collins, the City of Austin CIO, has been invited to the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission this month. He’s been asked to present the plan for the web site redesign, and discuss the public input process. That includes the survey, but also follow-on activities such as townhall meetings and focus groups.

    I don’t expect open government initiatives to be discussed per se, but I think the process that’s used for requirements gathering will be of interest to all.

    This is tentative–the agenda has not been posted yet.

    The commission meeting is scheduled for Wed, Dec 12 at 7:30pm. It typically is carried live on cable channel 6.

    Chip Rosenthal
    Chair, ACT&T Commission

  2. Rantor (unregistered) on December 1st, 2007 @ 6:24 pm

    Obviously, the Web people are captives of the policymakers and must obey them. The switch to Google as a search-engine marked a great improvement. Everybody loves streaming channel 6 and the immediate availability of council transcripts from the closed-caption system (is that most likely computer-aided transcription?). It would be helpful, without stifling esthetic creativity, to have a degree of style or navigation uniformity across departments. It would also be useful to have some sort of routine check to see if information on line is current or in some way to query for updates. Information must be accessible to dial-up people, of whom there are many, still, as I know well from other stuff I do. The database on building permits does not seem to be uniformly updated. The on-line 3-1-1 system allows requests of certain kinds but not of others, and it’s not clear why; perhaps it’s a difference between one department and another. And anybody could go on and on.

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