Dave Reid

Milwaukee County Taking First Steps Towards Open Government

By - Feb 7th, 2011 04:09 pm
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To say that access to Milwaukee County records has been less than transparent is an understatement.  Milwaukee County’s committee agendas are poorly formatted, currently contain little information, lack the associated public input documentation, and almost no committee meetings are carried on TV, so the context and history of legislation is often difficult to ascertain.

In recent years Milwaukee County was put on the e-notify system, and this certainly was an improvement, but it lacks the level of detail needed for open government.  Leading the efforts to bring more transparency to Milwaukee County, Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, pushed forward a project that will put Milwaukee County’s records into the City of Milwaukee’s Legistar system.  The online system will allow for enhanced public participation by allowing citizens to subscribe to legislative files via RSS, search the back history of a piece of legislation, and view the associated documentation.  For an example of how this system is currently used by the City of Milwaukee, and will soon be used by Milwaukee County, you can view all of the associated documentation regarding the recent Marriott Hotel project at this link.  Once complete, Milwaukee County will proceed with plans to add better access to archived video from committee and County Board meetings.   Together these will provide a level of transparency, history, and accountability to Milwaukee County that has been sorely missing.

Early testing of the integration is underway, an e-notify went out with a sample agenda attached, and access to the system should be available to the public in 2011.  To get a better understanding of what this system will do for citizens, check out this video from Saint Paul, MN.

Categories: Gov 2.0

5 thoughts on “Milwaukee County Taking First Steps Towards Open Government”

  1. GT says:

    In St. Paul, Gov 2.0 requires David Lynch haircuts

  2. Dan Knauss says:

    @GT Hilarious!

    This is great news, but I wonder if an open source solution or handrolled option would have been better and feasible, especially in the long run.

    Legistar is very badly conceived and fails in several key ways. It doesn’t allow you to extract anything in the system in standard and/or open formats. Search is very weak, and the user interface is ugly, confusing, and obfuscutory. A lot of value is added to it just by Google mining through it and adding searchable text to PDFs in the system that are just scanned images.

    Dave, maybe you can make the developers aware of how public users look at it and use it.

  3. Sam says:

    Legistar might be crap -I’ve never really used it- but the St. Paul city website is incredible. It’s easy to find more or less anything about the city on, and it also gives a generally positive impression of the place. Best of all, stuff is in legible menus instead of just piled on the main page.

    Milwaukee.gov seems to be made to look like a stack of files on some bureaucrat’s desk, and is full of outdated info and pages with little more than early MSWord clip art. An ideal place to start would be a complete re-do of the website, and ideally keeping it up to date. Imagine if you could email the different depts at the county, read about their current projects, and read what the supervisors/county exec hope to accomplish each term all on the county website!

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Dan I agree Legsitar leaves a lot to be desired, but a big step forward for Milwaukee County anyhow…

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