Transparency by a County Commission

Here’s what local government transparency via the web looks like. Our county commission could do this.

Here’s how the Commissioners of Travis County, Texas do it:

Video files of commissioners court meetings are available online. Agenda items are available by noon the day after the meeting.
For example:
Voting Session Agenda
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 Complete Agenda Backup Materials, 120 MB

This web page version is derived from a manual conversion of the official document of record for the convenience of the user. Travis County has posted this notice and agenda in good faith, in compliance with Government Code section 551.056. Please note that, in the event of a technical problem beyond the county’s control that prevents the county from posting here or that results in an erroneous posting, notice of this meeting and agenda posted at the courthouse remains valid

By “Backup Materials” they mean the packet the Commissioners got.

The rest of that web page fior their 13 December 2011 meeting has video and text for ciizens communications and consent items, plus each item that had its backup information in the Commissioners’ packet is separated out with video, text, and backup links.

And for next week’s meeting, 20 December 2011, the complete agenda with links to each backup item, is already available on the Commission’s public website.

Including for road closings and everything else the Commissioners consider.

Including for public hearings. So the public knows what’s going on, and people who stand up in public hearing can know what they’re commenting on.

That’s what local government transparency looks like. The Lowndes County Commission could upgrade its agendas to include links to the backup materials, and the day after the meeting add its own videos.


One thought on “Transparency by a County Commission

  1. Barbara Stratton

    I don’t know how you found this example, but good work & thanks for the research. This is a real genuine effort to produce government transparency. Anything short of this is faux transparancy. Can you find out how the citizens were able to get this good faith transparancy enacted?
    I am expecially concerned with the cloudy transparancy on RFP & bidding procedures within our county. Having spent 12 years in government construction contracting I know the detailed safeguards that have been enacted to protect the taxpayers from contracting fraud & crony capitalist back door agreements. It is my observation that these safeguards are being bypassed by end around tactics & the current popularity of public/private partnerships has a plethora of possiblities for good old boy system abuses. Recently a local contractor started work on an unfunded, unawarded government project that was exposed by the local newspaper. The city’s answer to the illegal contracting procedures was to issue a contract change order for $143,807 with a 10% contingency. It has been my experience that anytime a contractor starts work on an unfunded project said contractor eats the cost of any work completed & all contractors are aware of this rule. In addition it is a dis-service to taxpayers for that amount of money to be awarded as a change order with no public discussion & no bidding process to make certain the work could not be done at a cheaper rate. Nothing personal to the contractor envolved, but if we citizens sit back & allow this type of end around to legal safeguards for bidding procedures then we are enabling possible crony capitalism (AKA good old boy system) abuses. At least one city council person questioned if bids had been obtained & was shut down by the statement that it was a change order. How many more multiple thousand dollar change orders can be expected to be tacked on? I think interrogatories of all bidding & contracting procedures for all governmental entities within our county need to be made public so citizens can be aware of how their interests are being protected. In addition if it is brought to the attention of public officials that it is possible for an existing contract to be rebid at a cheaper rate then said officials should be required to issue proper RFPs instead of issuing blanket change orders or contract extensions.
    Citizens need to get a handle on how contract awards are being managed locally before public/private partnership permanently cloud the issues. In addition no public/private partnership should be entered into without full public disclosure & opportunity for public discussion. Once a public/private partnership is enacted open record transparancy is history because the private entity envolved can & will claim proprietary exclusions. Conflict of interest & kickback abuses can easily be hidden under these proprietary exclusions.

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