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Posted on October 2, 2017 at 8:45 PM by Kevin Jenison
has been said about the word "transparency" in regards to city
government or any level of government for that matter. Some say that the City
of Muscatine needs to be more transparent with the citizens of the community. For
me, I am not sure how much more “transparent” the City of Muscatine can be.
ago I came to this community courtesy of another organization that was in dire
need of leadership and quality control. They had lost their edge in meeting the
communication needs of the citizens they served and charged me with bringing
their vision back into focus.
association did not last long for a number of reasons but I was able to accomplish
some of what I was brought in to do. When we parted ways, the organization had
a renewed emphasis on local communication sprinkled with increased
respectability and accountability to the people they serve. That organization
continues to use many of my ideas today which should do them well if they
follow the game plan.
I was with that organization I had a chance to interact with many of the
department heads and city administrator for the City of Muscatine. I tended to
ask a lot of questions, some more brilliant than others, about transparency,
Open Records, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Verification is, or
was, an important part of my previous line of work. Even when presented with
the facts and figures we wanted to dig a little deeper for verified
the trail I wanted to follow and asking the right questions proved to be a
great learning experience. I got my answers with a little leg work, a little
persistence, and it did not cost me an arm or a leg.
City of Muscatine has always been transparent. Most every piece of paper within
City Hall is available for public inspection once it has been run through the
legal gauntlet. But City staff knew that with the technology today, the City
could do more. Thus the alliance with OpenGov that was unveiled last July and brought
a whole new layer to the transparency table.
longer was it necessary for an organization to file an Open Records request,
pay a substantial fee (still lower than many other municipalities, state, or
federal organizations charge), and then wait several weeks while the documents
are found, and read for information that is not related to the request or
information that could not legally be released to the public.
if someone wants to know where the City is spending their tax dollars, they can
click on the OpenGov icon on the City of Muscatine web site and view various
kinds of financial data that is updated daily by the Finance Department. A user
can drill down into the data, search for items of interest, and even look at
the check book to see who was paid what. You can even download this information
for later use. All for free and all from the comfort of your own home.
that is not where transparency ends with the City of Muscatine.
have contacted the City through emails, phone calls, or personal visits requesting
information, filing complaints, or just wanting to speak with someone about an
issue they have a concern about. Every department head, every administrator,
every employee takes the time to listen and to help where they can. And if
they cannot, they find someone who can.
City of Muscatine is a business and like all businesses we rely on the people
of Muscatine for our jobs. If we do not take the time to answer questions, to
listen to problems, or to work for a mutually agreeable solution, we are not
doing all we can for the citizens of Muscatine or our visitors.
has been and will continue to be a vital part of our mission. Use OpenGov to
view real time financial data. There is staff directory that lists email
addresses and phone numbers of the various departments so if you have a
question, fire it off. Make sure you properly identify yourself, put an
appropriate phrase on the subject line, and you will receive an answer.
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