Gautier and Pass Christian lead the way on openness

Gautier and Pass Christian are setting the standard for using technology to make city government more transparent.

Video of the Gautier City Council is available online soon after a meeting, and the city makes its agendas, exhibits and minutes available prior to meetings.

The Pass Christian Board of Aldermen is not far behind. It also posts agendas, exhibits and minutes online. And Alderwoman-at-large Renee Brooks, who championed putting documents online to save paper, wants to eventually have meetings streamed live online.

“By offering residents an opportunity to go online and view the agendas, exhibits and minutes, we are providing much needed transparency while also creating a greener planet,” she said. “Even when you look at the agenda, you don’t always know what’s going on. People are looking at the exhibits and calling me on the weekend, and that’s what I wanted.”

Brooks’ crusade was significantly aided by a $5,000 grant from DuPont DeLisle, which was used to provide laptops for aldermen so they could read digitized versions of the agenda and exhibits prior to a meeting.

To assist residents, a slide-screen projector will be installed in City Hall this summer so people attending meetings can see what is being discussed.

The counties lag far behind the cities

While most other cities along the Coast post their agendas online, none come close to either Gautier or Pass Christian in making the documents to be discussed during a meeting so easily available to residents, although Pascagoula plans to.

The boards of supervisors are even worse. Harrison County makes agendas available, but not minutes or exhibits. Jackson County offers agendas and minutes, but not exhibits. Hancock County now has nothing pertaining to the supervisors’ meetings online, but plans to post agendas on its Web site soon.

The details are in the documents

There is no legal requirement for local governments to put this information online.

But now that the technology to do so is so readily available, why don’t they?

Gautier and Pass Christian officials are to be particularly commended for putting exhibits — the documents related to items on an agenda — online. Because it is in those documents that the public can learn the details of what their elected officials are going to be dealing with during a meeting

We hope their example is emulated across South Mississippi in every city hall and courthouse.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board, which consists of President-Publisher Glen Nardi, Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner, Opinion Page Editor B. Marie Harris, Associate Editor Tony Biffle, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point and Marketing Services Director John McFarland. Opinions expressed by letter writers, columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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