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Stop crying and get with the program

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Time: 10:52 AM

As a follow-up to a post I did a while back on the new law requiring cities and municipalities posting the minutes of all public meetings online within seven days, I, along with fellow online reporter Christine Stuart and marketing firm owner Darryl Ohrt were interviewed by the News-Times on this topic.

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!

posted by ctblogger at 10:52 AM | Permalink|


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On September 26, 2007, ten plaintiffs filed suit in response to an arrest of aday laborers at a public park in Danbury, Connecticut. Plaintiffs amended their complaint on November 26, 2007.

The amended complaint states that plaintiffs sought to remedy the continued discriminatory and unauthorized enforcement of federal immigration laws against the Latino residents of the City of Danbury by Danbury's mayor and its police department.

Plaintiffs allege that the arrests violated their Fourth Amendment rights and the Connecticut Constitution because defendants conducted the arrests without valid warrants, in the absence of exigent circumstances, and without probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were engaged in unlawful activity. In addition, plaintiffs allege that defendants improperly stopped, detained, investigated, searched and arrested plaintiffs. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights when they intentionally targeted plaintiffs, and arrested and detained them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and perceived national origin. Plaintiffs raise First Amendment, Due Process and tort claims.

Plaintiffs request declaratory relief, damages and attorneys fees.



Danbury Area Coalition for the Rights of Immigrants v.
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
3:06-cv-01992-RNC ( D. Conn. )

(02.25.08) Court docket

(10.24.07) Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Emergency Motion for Protective Order

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Barrera v. Boughton, No. 07-01436
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(02.25.08) Court Docket

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