The NY Times reports today that towns in Connecticut are shuttering their websites because they’re finding it too costly to comply with a new state transparency law that requires towns with websites to “post minutes from public meetings on the site within seven days of the meeting and must give residents at least 24 hours notice of special meetings through the site.” Seems a bit drastic to me. The story explains:
“We decided we couldn’t do what was required right away,” said Frank J. Chiaramonte, first selectman of Harwinton. “So we shut down our site.” In many small towns, volunteers run the Web sites. Asking the volunteers to type up the minutes of a meeting and to then also put the minutes online,all within seven days, is too much to ask, Mr. Chiaramonte said. “Some commissions still do minutes in longhand,” he added.
Here’s a tip that may or may not help towns comply with the law: record the public meeting with a cheap MP3 recorder and upload the file to the site. Boom. Instant transparency. Want to get a little fancier? Shoot the MP3 to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and for a few dollars have the audio transcribed or turned into minutes. Or set up a wiki and let citizens do it.
Like I said, these suggestions might not produce official minutes needed to comply with the law, but it’s the kind of measure I’d like to see instead of shuttering whole sites. One other thing, with storage and recording equipment so cheap, there’s no reason why every public meeting in the country, from the federal government to school boards, shouldn’t be online within a day or two. Enough excuses, folks.