TopEka Should Put the E Back in GovErnmEnt

Imagine a Tuesday night without the chance to watch the Topeka City Council in action.  What would we know that night of any votes on the doomed helicopter purchase.. or the software buy sailing through the council?  But the council can go even further.  Governments reluctant to become transparent are still coming into the 21st century with e-government.  Take the British Parliament.  They've opened up Wikipedia pages so people can write legal language into prospective bills the government's considering.  While Wikipedia is a horrible way to check a person's biography (since anyone can add anything) for this purpose, it's perfect.  The legal language can be parsed by the Parliamentarians to come up with the best possible law.

Now imagine a real city web-page.. with city laws, proposed bills, all the grant money, all the expenditures, voting records, zoning decisions, just a click away on your computer.  You could blog and chat with your council member.. go over a state law or city ordinance line by line.  Know exactly what they know.  That's why many local or state governments like to stay frozen in the 20th century with phone calls they can choose to return, or free snail mail privileges.  If they don't want you to know everything, they won't want a working e-government.  But with 90% of us linked electronically, the tide will have to turn someday.  If all that information were available to you, would you put in the hours to read it and use it?

Last night's software deal and helicopter veto are great examples of how much more we could learn.  I'd love to read your thoughts.  RH

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