For 2011- Collaborative Citizen Journalism-How To Do It Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


For 2011- Collaborative Citizen Journalism-How To Do It

28 December 2010 at 12:54:40 PM

As a companion piece, here's some thoughts on exactly how you can find out AND SHARE what you find, at least from my own experience.

ASK that all local government entities put their audio online so that you can hear it from the source.

ASK that they maintain an archive, on CD or other media, of previous meetings.

ASK that all local government entities put up ALL meeting notices on their websites before the meeting, by date the meeting will occur, at the same time that the meetings are posted on the door

ASK that all minutes of every meeting be posted promptly online after the meeting occurs.

ASK for all local government entities to put the check registers online as soon as possible and/or after approval.

ASK that all local government entities put materials that are going to be discussed at an upcoming meeting be posted online before the meeting so that the public can see as well.

ASK that public comments at meetings be for any subject, regardless of whether it is on the agenda.

If you have a public information request to see a particular document, you can usually either ask for a copy, an electronic copy or paper, or make arrangements to inspect that document in person. Many times the information can be sent back via email. If not, you can ask to go look at it in person.One time I went to look at something I wanted to see and wrote down the information on a yellow pad-the entity made it available and I sat at a table looking at it. I have an Iphone4 which takes excellent HD pictures and no longer require a paper copy or to scan a document. The advantage to this is that the document/photo can be immediately uploaded to my computer, very fast and easy. You can get a free FLICKR account to upload the document photo to it, won't cost you a cent, and then can post the link to the document here.  You can also use a place like SCRIBD to put up documents and then post a link here. There are some particular rules that involve asking for public documents, how to do it, how much time the government entity has to respond, etc, that I'm not going to go into here, but you can find all that information on the Texas Attorney General's website in a wonderful document about Public Information.

The check registers are sort of like an index for the actual receipts. You may see some nebulous checks written out. You can ask to go see the receipts for each one. That's how I found the Hooter's receipt-it was not listed on the check register specifically, but rather under a credit card bill. Every register entry has receipts and justifications with it, including who signed. One time I saw an item on a check register where a driver who broke the law got his ticket paid for by the district- I didn't have time to go ask for that specific receipt, but wondered why the taxpayer would be picking up the ticket cost? You may wonder about things like that too and you can drill down into the details. WHEN YOU DO, you can post the pics to a free photo account and then post it here.

Are there contracts you would like to see (or perhaps a lack of contract)? Asking can be just as telling as getting the information. When I asked for the contract for Land of the Dinosaurs before they got that $80,000 check, I found out there wasn't one, even though the 4b committee was supposed to do that.

When I asked to see the inspection reports for Oakdale Park, particularly after hearing that people could electrocute themselves at some RV ports, I was told there weren't any, that they do *visual* reports, and that there is still not a certificate of occupancy, where Oakdale passed safety and legal inspections and now is open for business. You can ask about things like that too. Anything, in other words, that you pay for by virtue of being a taxpayer is YOUR business.

I hope you will feel empowered by this and, more, will want to share what you  are interested in. You can do it from your home or go to the place to look, and it only takes a few minutes.

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