This is what we had to say about the new law and the opposition from local government.
New-media professionals such as Ohrt don't understand what all the hair-pulling is about.
Ohrt said it is not difficult or expensive to post information on existing Web sites. Nor are additional manpower or a degree in computer programming required, as there are a plethora of programs that can help towns upload the information.
"It gets easier every day," Ohrt said. "I think it is just fear of the Internet. It's just something they're not using, which is probably their first mistake."
Ohrt suggested town officials who are uneasy about the law should look into incorporating free social media sites such as Blogger.com into their existing site. In small towns, the worker or volunteer who operates the Web site probably already has more technical expertise than needed to create a blog.
"I can literally create a blog in 60 seconds or less," Ohrt said. "If you have an e-mail address and can pick a word out of the English language for your password, you can create a blog."
Al Robinson, a Danbury resident who writes a local Democratic-leaning Web site called Hat City Blog, points out state law has long required town officials to make meeting minutes available within seven days after the meeting. The new law is simply saying "then hit 'copy and paste.'"
"We live in a age where everything is done by computer," Robinson said. "Therefore what the state is asking is really no big deal."
Robinson said if town officials are already using a computer to type minutes, posting the documents is not difficult.
"You can make a text or PDF file via the 'save as' command just as fast as printing a document, so I don't know what the big deal is," Robinson said. "Again, they're already required to have hard copy of the minutes available to the public seven days after a meeting."
Both Robinson and Ohrt said the days of simply stapling pieces of paper to a bulletin board in City Hall are long gone, and that local government has a responsibility to make sure it is transparent to residents.
They suggested the clerk who prepares the minutes be the person responsible for posting it online.
Christine Stuart, a former print reporter who operates the news site CTNewsJunkie.com, was not surprised by the "sky is falling" attitude taken by many towns and city officials.
"It's Connecticut," Stuart said. "People are reluctant to change. Old habits die hard in Connecticut."
Stuart researches, writes, edits and uploads her stories to her Web site.
How difficult is the upload process?
"It's 'copy,' 'paste,' 'save' and 'publish,'" she said.
Really, this is NO BIG DEAL as cities and towns are already required to make available for the public's viewing all minutes of ANY public meetings. In other words, if you walk down to City Hall and request to view the minutes of a meeting that happened seven days prior to your request, under state law, they have to provide you with a hardcopy (print out) of the minutes.
Now, let me explain in great detail why the new law is NO BIG DEAL.
When you print a document, your actually making what's called a postscript (.ps) file. In simple terms, postscript is the computer language printers use in order to print documents. If you never seen a postscript file before, instead of printing to the printer, do a print to file command and open the .ps file using any word processor.
Okay, I'll keep this as simple as possible.
Again, a postscript file is the SAME as the final printout that comes out of a computer. You can do many things with a postscript file BUT for the purpose of this post I'll stay on topic. A postscript file can be converted to a Portable Document Format (.pdf) file which can be viewed universally on any computer (if you have Adobe Acrobat installed). Having worked in the desktop publishing business, I can tell you that creating a .pdf file from a word document is about as easy as printing a word document...in fact, you can make scripts that can take care of that process automatically. IN other words...IT WILL NOT COST A CITY OF TOWN ONE RED CENT TO POST DOCUMENTS ONLINE.
A simple Google search will show you how easy it is to create a .pdf file and I would SERIOUSLY advise the City of Danbury to get their act together ASAP. I know FOI law like the back of my hand and I'll have no problem standing up for the public and checking to make sure that the city is in compliance.
Quit crying and do the public's work!