Open government more than just posting financials online

‘Either we want openness with our citizens or we’re mouthing convenient platitudes during an election’
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CAVE CREEK – The town reviewed a presentation of the Junar Plus Package proposal for Open Books Software in response to Arizona’s Open Data Initiative (A.R.S. § 41-725), which requires financial data transparency for local governments during the May 6 council meeting.

nike rigney, Mayor Vincent Francia said open government means more than just posting financials on the Internet and stated he was approached by Cristian Streeter (r, on right) from Junar, who, along with Mike Rigney (l) , the town’s IT coordinator, did a presentation of Junar interface software.

When Francia and Rigney met with Streeter, Francia said he invited Charlie Spitzer to join them “since this is his world.”

The item was a presentation only with no council action and was only one of a few different companies Francia said council would review.

Rigney said according to the government auditors the town is in compliance but there were many more things the town could make available.

When Councilwoman Shelley Anderson asked if the program would allow people to download forms, Rigney explained the program was designed for real-time information and Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek utilizes another system where minutes and agendas are stored.

Councilman Dick Esser asked how quickly the system could be implemented and how much staff time would be required.

Rigney said the system, which can “hook” data, could be up and running within days with basic financial data on the web and once the fields and data sets are identified, the links would extract data automatically and take up no staff time.

The program permits the data to be downloaded and used by citizens, rather than just posting a PDF report, and allows for charts and graphs to be made from the data.

During public comment, Spitzer asked Streeter who owned the data if the town were to use the Junar “cloud” software and if Junar were to go out of business would the data be considered an asset.

Streeter did not have an answer but said he could find out.

David Smith stated he read the law and said it asks for a substantial amount of detail.

Rigney said there were different levels for compliance and Cave Creek is only required to post expenses, revenues and receipts on the web and stated 90 percent of the town’s financials is in one database.

Rigney said if the information can be put into a data set, “we can serve it.”

Bill Allen said the public in general was pushing for a paperless society and strongly recommended the town thoroughly investigate and consider.

He said it was something that needs to get done and said eventually council should be able to review documents on a screen instead of bulky paper documents and plans.

Francia, responding to Bob Moore’s statements and Enchanted Canyon used as an example, said if the software had been in service when Enchanted Canyon first came up, “citizens would not have had all those sleepless nights.”

Francia said who he meets with and when could be posted online, and while the meetings may be one on one, he stated they are not secret.

Along with everything else, Francia, a proponent of open government, said e-mails should also be available.

Smith suggested council utilize e-mail addresses instead of their personal e-mail addresses.

Francia reiterated, “Either we want openness with our citizens or we’re mouthing convenient platitudes during an election.”

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