Open Government Symposium @ LCC 2014-11-21

Not the Onion: VDT front page Saturday 15 November 2014, County plans open government meeting Friday,

VALDOSTA — An Open Government Symposium this Friday in Valdosta will be hosted by the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners.

Valdosta Daily Times Editor Jim Zachary, director of the Transparency Project of Georgia, will be joined by Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, for the open government training event.

Lowndes County leaders approached Zachary and Manheimer about bringing the symposium to Valdosta after they attended the first in a statewide series of open government training sessions held in Macon at the Center for Collaborative Journalism Oct. 17.

The article noted that Commissioner Clay Griner was among the attendees at the previous symposium in Macon and had asked for this local meeting.

All the events are free and open to the public. Free materials are also provided to each attendee.

Organizers are encouraging elected officials, government attorneys, staff, records custodians, journalists, community activists, watchdog groups, representatives of nonprofits that receive government funding, members of boards and commissions, students and anyone who has an interest in transparency and more accountable government to attend.

“Our primary goal is to help create a culture for open government across Georgia and incubate a climate that will send a strong message to state lawmakers the people of Georgia have an expectation of transparency,” Zachary said. “We are not against government, but we are for taxpayers and ordinary citizens who are often frustrated when it comes to their access to records and meetings.”

The symposium will focus on:

  • Open Records
  • Open Meetings
  • Why Government Transparency Matters

“We are creating a culture at The Valdosta Daily Times where we simply have the expectation that government is always open and transparent and each of our reporters will be well-versed in the state’s Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act,” the editor said.


Now how about a culture at the Lowndes County Commission that publishes board packets on its own website before the meetings so citizens can see what their elected officials are talking about. Maybe start by getting the minutes up to date on the Commission’s website; currently the most recent posted are from 10 June 2014, five months and about ten meetings ago. Then add agendas, minutes, and board packets of the Planning Commission. Plus use that excellent video equipment already in the Commission Chambers to video and post Commission meetings on the Commission’s own website.

Where is that new website, by the way, that we the taxpayers have been paying for for many months now but have not yet seen?

The Open Government Symposium will be held Friday, Nov. 21, from 9 a.m.-noon at the Lowndes County Administration Building, 327 North Ashley Street, in the commission chambers on the second floor.

While there is no registration fee, individuals or groups planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP by emailing

LAKE facebook event for the Open Government Symposium. And LAKE meeting afterwards.