[Chtechcomm] Will's petition for citizen access to the Council's list-serv

chtechboard at willraymond.org chtechboard at willraymond.org
Wed Nov 16 16:18:31 EST 2005

Mayor and Council,

The Council currently receives timely, summarized information on the status
of our Town via the Council list-serv.

Besides receiving flash reports on our boards, notifications of meetings,
ongoing status of our departments, they also receive all the comments and
complaints our citizenry sends onward for resolution.  These comments
provided a invaluable "realtime" gauge of problem areas within our

Chapel Hill has made a commitment to opening up our governing process, to go
beyond the strict legal requirements of our State's open records laws and
provide as much transparency in the governing process as practically
possible. As a citizen that  routinely uses our Town's online assets to
research material on issues facing our community, I'm quite aware of the
current limitations of our online implementation of that commitment.

Two of the greatest problems we have are timeliness and accessible
breadth.  To discover if the agendas, minutes, notes, etc. of both the
Council or our
advisory boards are available, you have to "poll" each individual web
location to find out if, maybe today, the information you need is available.
In addition, there's generally not an executive summary, equivalent to the
flash reports, available online.  You have to laboriously open each PDF and
scan the notes to see if there's any relevant information to pursue.

As a candidate for Council, I was placed on the Council's email list-serv
which immediately halved the amount of time I had been spending researching
current Town activities.  Instead of "polling" for reports that might or
might not be posted to the web site, they were emailed to me in a timely
fashion.  The executive summaries allowed me to quickly triage reports for
relevancy.  The comments and complaints, not currently available online,
provided a "realtime" feel for the status of our community.  And the "push"
nature of a email list allowed me to dispose of my research in "bite size"
pieces, instead of trying to digest the huge chunks that intermittent
postings of content to our Town's website necessitates.  If I had known of
the list before my run, for the sake of completeness and efficiency, I would
have asked to join it years ago.

I ask that my membership on the Council list be restored immediately and,
further, that a process be created so that other interested citizens can
also join this list or any other lists, like the Town Manager's, so they
may also have "bite size", timely access to the summarized information that
drives our leadership's decision making process.

Finally, there's no technical or legal impediment to adding a citizen to
this list.  The list-serv is available now; no additional development is
required, no additional resources needed. And while archiving the contents
of the list on the website is a great idea, and something we should've
done years ago, it is NOT A SUBSTITUTE for membership on the list-serv.

I ask you move forward on this matter tonight to preserve our Town's
commitment to open governance, to lower the bar to participation by our
citizens and to increase the timely flow of information to our community.

Thank you,

Will Raymond

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