Governments offer more information

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Transparency has become a popular word, referring to governments making documents and activities open to the public, and at least one Englewood resident feels the community is doing a good job in that area.

“I lived in Chicago for a long time and it seemed government at every level did just about everything behind closed doors,” John Mullins said. “I keep tabs on the city and the school district. The city is doing a better job of putting a lot of government-related information on the Internet, and the school district is really doing well, as every step and dollar spent on the construction project is available online.”

The federal government’s Freedom of Information Act requires public access to documents, and Colorado has a similar law.

The website www.sunshinestandard.org strongly supports transparency, and states that federal, state and local governments have drafted “sunshine legislation” providing that government-related documents and activities are made completely open to the public and the press. This type of legislation includes “sunshine policies,” FOILs (Freedom of Information Law), and open meetings laws.

In 2005, a group of residents joined forces to form Englewood Citizens for Open Government to push the city to provide more information on governmental meetings and actions and make that information more available to residents.

“I believe Englewood Citizens for Open Government was instrumental for the city putting audio recordings of council meetings and study sessions online,” Council Member Rick Gillit said. “Before the group began its campaign, the city was recording the meetings, but the recordings were kept in the clerk’s office.”

He said he feels the city is now doing a good job making the audio recordings available to residents.

“I would like to see us go further and provide streaming video of each meeting online,” Gillit said. “Digital video equipment is no longer all that expensive and I’d like to see us get that video online.”

Gary Sears, Englewood city manager, said he feels the city has always taken pride in being open to the public.

“For quite a few years, the city has made public information available upon request,” he said. “Over the last few years, we have taken steps to improve access to public information, including making audio recordings of city council meetings and study sessions available online.”

He said even the configuration of city hall is more user-friendly, with the community room and council chambers more accessible to the public.

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