Keeping the public informed through websites

A public speaker at a recent Fulton County Board of Supervisors meeting chastised supervisors for not keeping the county’s website up-to-date with board minutes.

Voila! Supervisor minutes are all current now. Perhaps a public shaming was enough.

Maybe the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency can take lessons from the county.

On the IDA website, with the exception of its most recent board meeting, time has stood still for two years since April or May 2015, when the last meeting agendas and notes from agency meetings were posted.

Sometimes, government officials recognize limitations of their websites themselves. Johnstown Mayor Vern Jackson last Monday called his city’s site “terrible,” urging more bio and photo information. Johnstown Councilman-at-Large Craig Talarico, whose position was listed as “vacant,” added: “It’s a way for Johnstown to shine, if it looks sharp.”

Absolutely.

Many of these public sector websites are getting better at informing the public. But most don’t generate agendas quick or earlier enough online for anyone who cares to attend meetings. The Fulton County Board of Supervisors still doesn’t get its committee agendas online, just in case someone from the public might decide to sacrifice part of their day to attend.

I always get a kick out of agencies that claim they’re private, but receive public taxpayer money. Chances are you won’t find any notes about board meetings on those websites. At least I couldn’t find any meeting information for say, the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce and Lexington Center.

Kudos to organizations that at least list their board meeting dates, like the Fonda-based Fulmont Community Action Agency. But an advance agenda online would be helpful.

Many entities hold true to the tired saying, “The public can’t have our agenda because our board members haven’t seen it yet.” Whoever made that rule? Why are these agendas so classified and so top secret? Maybe groups are terrified that a citizen armed with information about the apparent low bidder for a pole barn project is a dangerous one.

It seems the larger the government, the better the website, although not always true.

Gloversville and Johnstown’s city websites have come a long way. No only do they provide colorful shots of city attractions, but detailed agendas and recaps of council meeting minutes.

But it’s kind of a shame the only one of Fulton County’s 10 town websites where I could find a real public agenda was the Mayfield Town Board. Several of the towns do have minutes for meetings already held. But many of those towns’ minutes were only up to December or January. Many of the smaller towns had no minutes at all — thus no record of their public meetings.

Faring better than municipal governments on their website meeting info are area educational institutions. Most Fulton County school districts use BoardDocs. School districts providing detailed Board of Education agendas include: Gloversville, Johnstown, Mayfield, and Broadalbin-Perth and Oppenheim-Ephratah. Providing a board packet — the exact same info as the board gets — is especially impressive. O-ESJ gets credit for that.

Northville Central School has recaps of past meetings, no actual online agendas for the public.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College and BOCES provide agendas, but the agendas doesn’t include much background information.

∫ Yours truly recently traveled to the other side of the state for three days. I noticed differences between the big city and here — contrasts Fulton County residents should take pride in. For one thing, bars close at 4 a.m. in Erie and Niagara counties, which I still find crazy. Seriously. If you’re drinking yourself silly in a bar at 3 or 4 a.m., is anything positive happening? Unless I’m missing something, Fulton County drinking establishments close at 2 a.m., a little more reasonable.

At least the sun isn’t starting to come up quite yet.

Traffic in Buffalo was pretty much horrendous downtown. Constant stop lights and perennial road rage. On the flip side, driving in any of the downtowns in Fulton County’s cities and villages is pretty much a piece of cake.

Restaurants in the big city can be hard to get a table and a decent parking spot.

No so much here.

The opinions and views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily the opinions and views of The Leader-Herald or its editors.

By Patricia Older

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