Facilitator: Patrick Kabat

This breakout session began with two core premises. First, understanding who requests government information, who disseminates it, and how and to whom it is disseminated are crucial aspects of ensuring that public information reaches the largest possible public audience. Second, the availability and attitudes of government officials who respond to access requests is as important as the doctrine of access law in making public access to information meaningful. Transparency cannot exist without ready and meaningful public access to government information. But any conversation about meaningful access to public records, meetings, and information must look beyond the bare requirements of the law to the government officials who respond to records requests, and to the individuals who request records and publish it for public consumption. This “middle ground” between abstract rights to government information and the public who ultimately receives it is critical, and the breakout session devoted itself to understanding how information gets from the government to the public, and how information channels can be smoothed and enhanced.

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Facilitator: Jennifer Coleman

  • Why is this important? Columbia building example: people were passionate, committed, but not necessarily aware of the timeline, regulations, etc.
  • Casino group, like many private sectors, has exploited the timeline to their advantage. To deal with this kind of planning, negotiations have to be done at that level
  • along with building projects, there should also be a focus on transportation projects and public spaces projects
  • A good time to get public involvement? Even before the pencil hits the paper! An example of late involvement that can stall a project: Oakwood Commons in South Euclid. Now public is engaged and there is citizen outcry.
  • The downside of early involvement can be the hiked up development prices on getting wind of a proposed project; cna hurt the developer. How can this be achieved without any disadvantage to both the parties? The effects of transparency that will add a monetary premium to the project need to be  examined and discussed with public.
  • TIMING is crucial. and so is balance
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Facilitator: William Tarter, Jr.
Three major takeaways:

  1. The challenge is to make a seemingly complex topic and make it simply for folks to understand.  Don’t just tell us what or how, tell us why!
  2. Why doesn’t the Charter Review Commission operate independently of the Council?  Why does it have to give recommendations to the Council for approval before it is put to the voters?  Ironically, if the Commission wanted to make a recommendation on how to change the Council (ex. Term Limits), they would have to get the approval of Council to put it before the voters!  Commission should forward recommendations directly to the voters to decide.  It is our charter to amend.
  3. Council meetings should be the absolute minimum in public outreach.  Use emerging mediums such as smartphones, apps, mobile versions of websites, Twitter and Facebook. Use traditional methods such as Town Halls, Posters and hotlines. Why isn’t there a Office of Public Engagement, such as what was recommended in the Transition, that would enable these things to happen quickly and easily?

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Facilitator: David Jurca, Jeff Schuler
Three major takeaways

  1. The County would like to have an Open Data Advisory Group to help prioritize which data sets should be made available first.
  2. The group really liked the Open Data Philly website and the group would like to use this as a best practice to model in Cuyahoga County.
  3. More organizations and individuals currently gathering county-wide data need to be engaged in the open data website development process.

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Presentation slides: http://bit.ly/tap-open-data
Email list: http://groups.google.com/group/tap-open-data

Facilitator: Jeff Schuler

Three major takeaways:

  1. Publishing data in bulk, machine-readable, and open formats provides the most accessible and cost-effective framework for sharing public data with the public — by allowing third parties to leverage that data to create applications based on market forces, interest and need.
  2. Most County data does not currently meet Open Data criteria, but the IT Department is receptive to the principles outlined and the potential of implementing.
  3. An advisory group to the County Executive’s office could help make Open Data a priority for the County IT Department and to set priorities.

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Facilitator: Jill Miller Zimon

Three major takeaways:

  1. The public encounters multiple and varied obstacles to finding, accessing and receiving data and information related to how much money is collected and how that money is spent. These obstacles hinder the public’s ability to follow the choices made by those charged with appropriations and, subsequently, hinders the public’s ability to comment on the public policy inherent in those choices.
  2. Since a great deal of the data already exists electronically, “freeing” the data is a matter of prioritization and political will. There is at least nominal evidence that the County Executive and the County Council have both prioritized the need to make this data accessible and to exert the political will to make it so.
  3. A comprehensive budget dashboard and portal that can be built out overtime needs to be created in order to provide access to all budget related documents and serve as both a warehouse and a clearinghouse.
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Facilitator: Graham Veysey

Three Major Takeaways
1) Education is key. In order to restore trust in government, people need to understand what government does and lose the cynicism that is currently exhibited towards government. Too often, education is thought of as just a classroom K-12 environment. It needs to be thought of as both a system that addresses youth but also adults. A curriculum needs to be developed that instills in youth the basics of how government works but also what it does.

Classroom activities are not enough. Shadow and service learning are key educational tools. Vista workers should be placed at the County level and the County Fellowship program should be expanded.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor frequently sites a fact that only 1/3 of people can name the three branches of government but nearly 75% of the population can name one of the American Idol judges.

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Facilitator: Jenita McGowan
Three major takeaways
1) County Stat is a new program that started six months ago and it is County-wide. There is still opportunity to shape what is measured and how that information is shared with the public. The vision of the breakout group is to make the County Stat process and outcomes transparent, participatory and collaborative.

2) Recommendation: County Stat should be easily Accessible and Understandable statistics. Specific action steps- create visual displays such as dashboards or infographics, make the information sortable, interactive and customizable, consider non-digital displays such as posters at County buildings that show the agency’s statistics and goals.

3) Recommendation: County Stat should be advised by a Citizen Input Group that can add input on other metrics that measure quality of life.

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Facilitators: Bill Callahan, Wanda Davis

Three major takeaways

  1. Up to 20% of the County’s adult residents and up to 50% of adult Cleveland residents don’t have broadband Internet access in their homes. Government transparency initiatives that rely on online tools will exclude these citizens, unless accompanied by strategic efforts to help them become effective Internet users.
  2. There are now big, well-funded “Digital Inclusion” campaigns under way led by OneCommunity’s Connect Your Community Project (in Cleveland and East Cleveland) and the County Library and Connect Ohio (in many suburban communities). These campaigns, funded by Federal broadband stimulus grants, are helping thousands of disconnected residents to become broadband users, but they are funded only until Summer/Fall 2012. This is a unique opportunity that the County and transparency advocates need to a) seize while it lasts, and/or b) help to extend beyond 2012 with local resources and partnerships.
  3. There are experienced, committed nonprofits and libraries already leading the way in this area, and constantly on the lookout for partners.

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Thanks to all who participated in the Cleveland Coalition’s TAP Summit. We made a lot of progress today to move toward greater openness and transparency in Cuyahoga County. We’ll be posting group reports tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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