Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
May 15, 2012
By Nancy Pasternack
The change still causes consternation for technophobes at City Hall.
A month ago, anyone interested in learning about issues on the agenda of Marysville's elected officials — the City Council — had to show up to City Hall and request access to a paper agenda.
Now, a full City Council agenda packet — which includes background information, staff reports and other supporting documents about subjects scheduled for discussion or vote — is available online, via the city's website.
The decision to do this followed more than six months of discussion about improving public access to the workings of government, and the pros and cons of investing in technology improvements to implement such changes.
And not everyone is comfortable with it.
"It's still in an experimental stage," said City Manager Steve Casey, the most skeptical voice on the subject. "We don't have the staffing backup here to say, 'this is going to be done consistently.'"
Casey said that without having an in-house person with expertise about Internet technology, he is concerned about raising the public's expectations about more tech-savvy changes.
But resident Cynthia Fontayne, among the chief proponents of the change, said Marysville has made an important improvement in communicating with the public.
"If citizens can have more information more easily, they can be more easily engaged," she said. "The more people know, the more they can help."
Council members voted May 1 to further advance the concept of the "paperless agenda" by contracting with a document management company.
BoardDocs, which has been selected to help publish, manage and archive the city's documents via the Internet, promises to make revisions to and storage of public information easier, less wasteful and ultimately cheaper.
The company will charge $2,700 for one year, plus $1,000 in set-up costs.
City Services Director Dave Lamon said the jury is still out on how well the service will be appreciated by council members and staff.
"But we've done the part where we've made it (council agenda information) available to the public," he said. "That's what we believe is the most important part."
While the changes might still seem like a primitive step — Yuba City council members, for instance, receive supporting documents for meetings via city-issued iPads and can make notes digitally during meetings — Lamon joked that tech-friendliness is a relative concept.
"We're now well beyond the Flintstones," he said, "but maybe not yet the Jetsons."
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