Promoting Meaningful Citizen Engagement
In a previous post I discussed how Faith Gordon requested the City Council in Lackawanna to make available to the public copies of the entire Council meeting agenda not just a summary. Ms. Gordon requested that the entire City Council meeting agenda including resolutions, memos etc. be put on-line, so that the public can see what the Councilmembers see when voting at a meeting.
The response Ms. Gordon received from one Councilmember was : “Why do we have to put it on the website? I don’t understand,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Francis J. Kulczyk. “Do we have to do it? Who else does it?”
For several years now the Buffalo Common Council and other communities have simply scanned meeting documents and posted them on-line for the public. Scanning documents and posting them on-line is not an expensive time consuming or difficult process. In fact putting information on-line reduces the need to spend time and resources responding to requests for information.
Governor Cuomo on January 3, 2012, signed into law legislation introduced by Assemblymember Amy Paulin, which requires state and local governments that maintain a web site to post materials online before a meeting to the extent practicable. The law takes effect in thirty days.
Paulin said she developed the bill a few years ago based on her own experience of attending public meetings while serving as president of the Westchester County League of Women Voters. She and others tried to follow along without the benefit of having the documents the public officials had.
The New York Public Interest Research Group praised the legislation, which the group said “will promote meaningful citizen engagement in public decisions and is a substantial improvement to the state’s Open Meetings Law.” “Public participation is meaningful when members of the public … can review proposals under consideration at the time they’re being discussed,” the statement said.
This new legislation should help Faith Gordon and others who are interested in engaging with government in a meaningful way.