Facilitators: Jason Russell, Jason Bristol

Three major takeaways

  1. Elected Officials – The new county government supports open government and the ideals of transparency. However, elected officials in attendance did not believe that an open government pledge is simply for elected officials. In a representative democracy, all participants are important to the process and all should commit to fostering an open and transparent system of government. The county government should work to institutionalize new media outlets. Examples include blogging about governmental activities and twitter posts regarding relevant events. It was the consensus of the group that identifying bloggers who blog in specific communities could enable the county to effectively communicate relevant information to specific communities.
  2. Citizens – Numerous opportunities for citizen participation currently exist, yet citizens are not availing themselves of these significant opportunities. Causes include a history of corruption, the timing and location of opportunities to participate are not convenient for working people, and information is often not contextualized or made relevant to specific populations. Citizens have an obligation to participate with their government, and better modes of communicating relevant information in a new era of transparency could improve participation. It was the consensus of the citizen participants that an open government pledge could go a long way to re-branding and/or rebuilding public faith in county government.
  3. Media – Traditional media should be held to high ethical standards and should share responsibility for reporting important and accurate information related to county government. Traditional media outlets should view information about the government as newsworthy and should include such information in their reporting on a regular basis. Examples include the publishing of agendas and meeting details, and crawlers relating to governmental activities.

Next Steps

  1. Draft Open Government Pledge that includes public officials, citizens, and the media.
  2. Connect county government with legitimate bloggers in order to better institutionalize new media and to push governmental activities into the public realm (especially positive ones).
  3. Schedule a follow-up meeting. Agenda will include: a) drafting the Open Government Pledge for our community; b) exploring further opportunities for citizens to aid the new government in communicating its activities in a usable format for all segments of the community.

Definitions
Open Government is the governing doctrine, which holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight.

Open Government Pledge is a commitment by public officials, the media and citizens a like to uphold the open government doctrine.

Resources
Open Government Initiative: http://opengovernmentinitiative.org/
Goldwater Institute: http://www.goldwaterinstitute.org/opengovernmentpledge
White House Open Government Initiative: http://www.whitehouse.gov/open
Open the Government: http://www.openthegovernment.org/

 

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