UPDATED to include response by Board President on his failure to provide transparency on his own meeting notices.
Tonight should have been a good night for Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed. Tonight should have been when I and others had to suck it up and say, “Bravo, Sir, Bravo. Thank you. Well done.”
Should. Have. Been.
Over the past year, day after day, I have laid out the damning evidence of the City of St. Louis’s crappy job at transparency with regard to meeting notices and materials.
Most public meetings are not posted to the City’s online calendar.
Some meeting notices are only posted in hard copy form near elevators at City Hall.
Sometimes meeting notices are posted less than 24 hours before the meeting.
Some meeting notices that are not posted to the City’s online calendar are instead posted on the agency’s webpages. Sometimes this is a link on the “Board Meeting Materials” page, sometimes elsewhere. There is no consistency. You can spend a lot of time hunting for the information only to find the link is bad.
In cases where a meeting notice is posted somewhere on the City’s website, it often will not include an agenda. Most meeting notices with agendas do not include exhibits/attachments.
It’s a wet hot mess. It’s 2016 and the City of St. Louis has no central online location for citizens to find information on public meetings and hearings in a timely manner so as to make their voices heard before a decision is made.
And Board President Lewis Reed blew it. This week he filed Board Bill 152. It does not require posting of meeting notices in a central online location. There is no identification of who is responsible for the posting or the penalty for failure to do so. It only requires 24 hours notice. It does not require an electronic time/date stamp on the posting (which actually was once done on City website but disappeared). It does not require posting exhibits and attachments mentioned in agendas.
It’s lame and it needs to be called out for what it is, a piss poor mayoral campaign gimmick. Lewis Reed does not provide Board of Aldermen agendas with the BOA Calendar Notices. He’s a hypocrite. He could have been providing that information by simple link iNall these years. Lewis Reed doesn’t need passage of a board bill to put his own house in order with regard to transparency.
All City departments, agencies, boards, commissions, special districts, political subdivisions funded by City tax dollars should be required to have a designated public records officer to handle Sunshine records requests and post meeting or hearing information where applicable. In the case of appointed boards and commissions this will likely be the secretary. The City’s Register might be the designee for offices that she publicizes hearings for in the City Journal.
The public records officer should be responsible for posting online meeting and hearing notices with agendas, exhibits, and attachments, at a minimum by 9 am the Friday of the week prior to the meeting or hearing. Public notices required by city, state, or federal law to be posted as more advance notice should comply with those requirements.
These notices of meetings and hearings should be posted to a central location on the City’s website or some other location with link on City’s home page.
These notices should have an electronic time and date stamp that cannot be tampered with.
These notices should include a link to the last approved Meeting Minutes of the entity, where applicable. Meeting Minutes and Materials should be archived online in perpetuity as well as microfilmed or digital copy made.
Blighting reports should also be available online and linked when cited on agendas.
Penalty for failure to comply and enforcement should be included in the ordinance.
Let’s get that done. Let’s get a central online clearinghouse for public meeting information. But let’s not pass a board bill that basically says it’s OK to stick a meeting notice anywhere on the City website and call that progress.
Let’s get some real transparency going. And, then, if someone wants to get all fancy with subscription email notices, figure out how to do that by subject matter, zip code, etc., so that subscribers are not getting hundreds of meeting and hearing notices every day when all they want to know is when there is a liquor hearing affecting their zip code, when their special taxing district meets, or what is on the agenda for the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee.
This weekend, in response to criticism of his poorly drafted bill and failure to provide transparency at the Board of Aldermen, Board President Lewis Reed blocked my Committeewoman Twitter account.
Board President Reed does not want to hear us but it does not stop us from speaking truth to power. Please contact your alderman and ask them to amend Board Bill 152 to include real transparency on public meetings and hearings, including posting all meeting and hearing notices and agendas in one online location and providing accountability if that is not done.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman