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The Open Government Steering Committee -- What's Ahead for 2010? - Friday, April 23, 2010


T
he City completed the first year of the Open Government Initiative on January 6, 2010.  The specific open government accomplishments for 2009 are described in our 360 Day Progress Report.  A key milestone was the adoption by the Mayor and City Council of the City's Open Government Policy.

The individual City Departments are responsible for implementation of the Policy on Open Government. The Open Government Steering Committee is providing a citywide focus for continuing to move the Open Government Initiative forward. For 2010, the Open Government Steering Committee is dividing its efforts among three working groups: "public engagement," "employee engagement," and "slcgov.com."

The "public engagement" working group is currently drafting a protocol for involving the public in City decision-making, based on public engagement best practices and the City's experience. A protocol document providing a conceptual and practical framework for public involvement was requested by the participants in the open government discussion at the Department Directors' retreat with Mayor Becker last December. The "public engagement' working group is also developing a set of values that represent open government.

The "employee engagement" working group is currently planning how to communicate those values of an open government to employees and supervisors.

The "slcgov.com" working group is continuing the effort to make the City's website more useful for the public. Recently, a survey was conducted to help the City determine the strengths and weaknesses of the site. Questions were asked on the usefulness of the site, the information contained, and how easy it is to find that information. Additionally, comments were gathered on specific suggestions for the site. These are being reviewed and analyzed to determine the steps needed to improve the experience when searching the City's site.

Members of the Open Government Steering Committee:

Deborah Alexander, Human Resources
Jan Aramaki, City Council Staff
Mary DeLaMare-Schaefer, Community & Economic Development
Lee Dobrowolski, Police Department
Barbara Gann, Airport
Frank Gray, Community & Economic Development
Bill Haight, Information Management Services
Karen Halladay, City Council Staff
Holly Hilton, Mayor's Office
Sonya Kintaro, City Recorder's Office
Chris Meeker, City Recorder's Office 
Sylvia Richards, City Council Staff
Ed Rutan, City Attorney's Office
Wilf Sommerkorn, Planning Division
Michael Stott, Mayor's Office
Michele Straube, Salt Lake Solutions
Cindy Lou Trishman, City Council Staff
Nole Walkingshaw, Planning Division
 
Salt Lake City's Open Government 360-Day Progress Report - Friday, February 26, 2010

 

 Open Government Initiative 360-Day Progress Report

Just over a year ago, Salt Lake City began its Greater Transparency for a Collaborative Government Initiative (since renamed as the Open Government Initiative). Much has been accomplished in the past year, including the adoption of our Policy on Open Government, but we still have much to do and learn.

Reflecting on our accomplishments and shortcomings, this past year has been a learning process for all of us. In fact, open government is a never-ending learning process. We must continually reevaluate our approaches as circumstances change over time and we learn from our experience. Through our public process on the Open Government Work Plan and Policy, we received and worked to incorporate many of the comments about the public’s understanding of and expectations for open government. We are continually learning about what topics and City actions generate public interest, and which ones do not.

As a City, we are particularly proud of the joint adoption of our Policy on Open Government and the work we have accomplished regarding soliciting and incorporating public input early in the decision making process. Whether it was the nondiscrimination ordinance proposals or the development of North Temple Boulevard, public input was sought long before a final decision and the ideas received greatly influenced the City’s thinking and perspective. As a result, better public outcomes and long term decisions have been made.

We have also learned of areas for improvement. It is challenging to predict the public’s interest in being involved in some, but not all, of the City’s normal business activities. Nor does the City always control how and when a particular issue develops. The City continues to try different options for when and how the public would like to be involved, either during the initial planning phases or after a series of options have been developed by staff.

Finding the right balance is not easy. In the past, the City was frequently criticized for not seeking public input early enough in the process. As the City has moved to seek public input earlier in the development of policy, there has been criticism that the City isn’t providing enough details or that proposals aren’t specific enough.

The early proposal of the two site locations for the public safety building and the Sorensen Center transfer are two good examples of how the City is learning to distinguish these areas.

The recent public hearing on the proposed Regional Sports Complex is another good example. The usual practice is for the Council to hear the Administration’s presentation on a proposal during a work session typically held in the afternoon; and often times, a public hearing is held on this same proposal later in the meeting at 7:00 pm. The public is invited to attend all City Council work sessions to listen to a presentation on a proposal along with the Council’s discussions; while a public hearing gives the public an opportunity to provide verbal comments to the Council. 

On January 5, 2010, the Council learned that a large number of concerned and interested community members were planning to attend the 7:00 pm public hearing on the Regional Sports Complex. In order to give those residents the opportunity to hear the Administration’s proposal and the Council’s discussion, the Council delayed their afternoon work session discussion until the 7:00 pm portion of the Council meeting. As a result, immediately after the Administration’s presentation and the Council’s discussion on the Regional Sports Complex, community members were able to comment – “pro,” “con,” (or “other”) – at the public hearing. The room was packed; nearly fifty members of the public spoke and twenty-nine submitted written comments during the hearing. 

In order to provide members of the public who were not able to attend the January 5th hearing the opportunity to provide comments, the Council continued the hearing to January 12 and followed the same procedure. The room was filled again and an additional thirty community members spoke and twenty-five submitted written comments.

Consideration of the Regional Sports Complex proposal illustrates another important point. Open government does not mean that everyone will agree with the decision that the City makes. Public officials frequently have to make difficult decisions involving competing policy considerations. What open government means is that everyone has an opportunity to voice their perspective at a reasonable time during the decision making process and that the City explains the basis for its action so that everyone can understand the reasons, even if they do not agree with them. 

Over the next year, we will continue to improve our understanding of the appropriate level of public process for specific decisions. We will focus heavily on expanding the culture of open government within Salt Lake City, along with increasing ease of access to tools and information, and expanding our processes for public engagement. 

Thank you for following and tracking our progress. As always, we welcome input on all of our decisions, including the transparency initiative itself. Together, we can continue to open the doors of government and improve public decision making and accountability.

 

 

 

Ralph Becker         JT Martin

Mayor                  Council Chair

 
 
Salt Lake City Policy on Open Government - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Policy on Open Government submitted to Council! 

Salt Lake City’s Open Government Steering Committee finalized its recommendations and submitted a proposed policy to the Salt Lake City Council on September 23, 2009. The proposed policy aims to support and further develop an organizational culture of openness and collaboration in Salt Lake City. This culture will benefit both City employees and the many constituencies the City seeks to serve by improving communication, awareness, and trust among all parties. These values will assist the City in making more fully informed and better decisions which serve our community and workplace more effectively. To see the official transmittal, click here.

 
Salt Lake City Releases its 180-Day Progress Report - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Salt Lake City's

Greater Transparency for Collaborative Government Initiative

180-Day Progress Report
Download Full Report

July 22, 2009
This is our third progress report since we jointly announced Salt Lake City’s Greater Transparency for Collaborative Government Initiative on January 6, 2009.  (The prior progress reports are available online at www.transparencyslcgov.com). Much has been accomplished since our last progress report.

On May 13, 2009, a draft of the proposed City Policy on Open Government was released for public comment.  The draft will be transmitted from the Administration to the City Council in mid-July for additional public comment and final adoption.  Also, on May 13, 2009, the City’s Open Government Steering Committee submitted its final work plan to the Mayor’s Office and City Council identifying the specific aspects of open government the City will be addressing.

The City learned a good deal about the importance of public participation in the debate over the location of the proposed Public Safety Complex.  Public input was received through a variety of means and, as a result of and in conjunction with the feedback, a new preferred location was identified.   The City will use the lessons learned from the Public Safety Complex discussion as it further develops more effective means for obtaining public input.

On April 13, 2009, Mayor Becker directed the City Department Heads to assess their department’s open government practices on three points:  (1) are the services that the department provides to the public accurately and completely described on slcgov.com? (2) are there categories of documents not currently available on slcgov.com that could be put online to help the public better understand the operations of the department? and (3) are there additional ways in which the department could obtain public input that would assist the department in serving the public more effectively?  These assessments have been recently received by the Mayor and the changes identified will be made over the coming months.

On May 9, 2009, BYU Communications Associate Professor Joel Campbell submitted his analysis of the City’s website.  Styled as a report card, this analysis identifies the strengths and weaknesses of slcgov.com and will be a valuable tool in helping the City make its website an even more useful resource for our constituents.

These and other activities are described in greater detail in the body of the report. We are still in the early phases of our open government initiative, but we believe that significant progress continues to be made.

 

Ralph Becker                             Carlton Christensen
Mayor                                           Council Chair

 

 
Salt Lake City Takes Next Step Toward Open Government with Public Release of Draft Open Government P - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Salt Lake City Takes Next Step Toward Open Government with Public Release of Draft Open Government Policy

Public Invited to Offer Feedback and Comments on Draft Policy

SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City government officials took the next step toward making Salt Lake City more open and accessible with the release of a draft of the Open Government Policy for public comment. The proposed policy is the result of months of work by City officials to identify methods for making Utah’s capital city one of the most open governments in the state and region.

The draft policy is available online at www.transparencyslcgov.com where the public is encouraged to review and comment on it. In the lead up to the announcement today, Mayor Becker and the Salt Lake City Council have envisioned Salt Lake City’s open government to consistently follow certain basic principles. These principles include:

  • Providing the public and City employees easy access to information that educates and informs.
  • Listening to all people affected by the City’s actions. No person or group affected by the City’s actions has a greater right to be heard than anyone else.
  • Seeing the public as a source of creative ideas and effective solutions.
  • Following stated processes, being truthful, and welcoming accountability.
  • Disclosing public officials’ conflicts of interest to the public.


The goals of Salt Lake City’s draft Open Government Policy include:

  • Providing complete and understandable information to the public.
  • Planning for and incorporating public input at the beginning of each project.
  • Letting the public know “why” decisions are made.
  • Going above and beyond the requirements when providing information to the public.
  • Making the information on www.slcgov.com easily searchable, accessible, and sortable.
  • Ensuring Salt Lake City’s public processes are understandable and fair to all parties involved.
  • Practicing the principles of an open government in City employee’s daily interactions within City government and between employees and departments.

Since the transparency initiative was announced in January, City officials have come to understand how critically important employee engagement is to the success of open government in Salt Lake City. To that end, City officials will encourage employee input as well as public input on the proposed policy.

In acknowledging today’s announcement, Mayor Becker commented, “More openness can have a transformational impact on how government serves those who live, work and invest in Salt Lake City. Clear procedures and accessible, easy-to-understand records and information will promote the accountability of our public servants as they make decisions and conduct the public’s business and will invite the participation of residents to collaborate in the strengthening and governance of our Capital City.”

The City is also releasing its final proposed policy implementation plan. The plan was originally opened for public comment on January 6, 2009, at the Mayor and City Council’s joint announcement of the Transparency for a Collaborative Government initiative. The revised plan has incorporated public comments received and additional research on the part of the steering committee. A copy of the implementation plan is available online.

For more information about Salt Lake City’s Open Government Initiative visit www.transparencyslcgov.com.

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