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Open Government is Hard To Do

Cary, NC – On April 18, 2013, the Town of Cary Town Council discussed the “Use of Technology to Enhance Town of Cary Public Meetings” covered by Staff Report TC13-07.  The staff report was a follow up to the findings of the Town’s Technology Task Force (TTF) and a request from the Town’s Information Services Advisory Board (ISAB).  The Town Staff did a great job of distilling the findings and recommendations of the TTF in putting the report together and offering a groundbreaking recommendation that would have resulted in a very open process for Boards and Commissions.

It was not an easy discussion and the Council struggled with this topic for almost 40 minutes of  a Council meeting.  You can see the discussion on the Town of Cary YouTube channel:

The private sector has embraced electronic meetings as a way to increase productivity and enable attendance for a geographically dispersed workforce at a low cost. Telephone conference calls have been around for years, and newer technologies like WebEx, GoTo Meeting, Google Hangouts and many others have revolutionized meetings with video, whiteboard sharing, chat functionality, etc. that have dramatically increased the effectiveness of electronic meetings.

The Council discussions focused more on distractions from rude attendees and the perceived need to have everyone physically present rather than the empowerment and productivity that Technology tools can bring to meetings. The Council did decide to allow Board and Commission meetings to be opened for electronic attendance by citizens which is a strong message that the Town is moving towards Open Government. The Board and Commission members however were restricted in their ability to participate via electronic meetings.

In one year the Town will review their decision, so we hope that the Cary Town Council will then adopt their staff recommendation of a truly open and empowering process.