Thursday, May 26, 2011

Computer Crash, Board Recesses Quickly Until 2pm, Open Meeting Thoughts

Board member PeggyAnn McConnochie came in at 6 to work on maps, but the computers the board uses to work its mapping software was down and she couldn't tweak her maps. 

This shows some of the problems with public meetings laws for this kind of organization.  This is a temporary board - 90 days - which has a lot of work to do.  By state law, not more than two members can talk about board issues together outside of a meeting.  The intent is to keep them from doing the public's business in private.  And with a board whose job has significant politically impacts, this is important.  But not easy.

They can't meet unless they've put up a public notice - the amount of notice before the meeting isn't totally spelled out, but 24 hours has been their minimum interpretation. 

To meet the law, they've just decided to post that they will meet everyday at 10am.  They convene at 10 and then they meet a while and then can recess and announce when they'll reconvene.  This way they can work in pairs or with staff and then reconvene as necessary. 

Board Comments Notebook Vol. 1
It's a bit of a crimp on their style, and for the most part, I don't think they would be doing anything they shouldn't.  But having the meetings open and available live online, it means that if they make errors or miss something, there's a chance that a member of the public can catch it.   At this point, they were working through things rather than making decisions.  The key is that when they do things that make an impact, they are open about it and the public can see why they made the decisions they've made.  A lot of the board's proceedings have been like that.  A few parts haven't that clear - like what all went into mapping Fairbanks and Anchorage.

After the meeting yesterday, Board attorney Michael White said this redistricting process has been the most open in Alaska history.  I'm sure that's true.  The hallways of the board offices are open to anyone to walk through and meet with members during breaks.  And most board members are available for questions and discussion during the breaks.  Even though public testimony has been cut off, anyone at a meeting can make suggestions during the breaks and the board is still getting emails and letters from the public. 

This is page 1 (of 7) in the contents for this first volume.  There's been more mail trickling in since this volume was put together last week. 

If you double click the image, it should enlarge enough to read the entries.  There are seven more pages.  If anyone wants to see more, let me know.

It's beautiful today and I'm going to bike the Coastal Trail with a friend in an hour.  Probably will miss the 2pm session.  Unpaid has its compensations.

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