Friday, October 21, 2016

Presentation Is All

If you watched Part 2 of Dan Udell's videotape of Tuesday's Common Council meeting to the bitter end, you saw city treasurer Heather Campbell expressing her great disappointment that the resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with OpenGov had been defeated. She told the aldermen, "I'm willing to bet that, as the elected officials who are actually voting on the budget, the majority of you probably could not say how much our tax levy was in 2016, how much we pay for the police department, how much our debt service is, what our tax increase was. If you, our elected officials don't know that information and can't communicate it to your constituents, how do you think the average taxpayer is supposed to understand how their tax dollars are being spent?"

Campbell's indignation was justified, but perhaps if she and her colleagues on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton and Council president Claudia DeStefano, who were advocating for adopting OpenGov, "the world's first purpose-built cloud solution for budgeting, reporting, and open data," had presented a better case for the technology, the outcome might have been different. The members of the BEA seemed to rely solely on a PowerPoint, projected onto the closed doors of the Council Chamber, narrated by someone patched in by cell phone, and presented in the middle of a very contentious meeting on October 11, which focused on another issue altogether, to convince the aldermen that this was something the City needed. 

Even though the case for OpenGov was not effectively made, the idea that OpenGov would allow the City to track expenses more effectively and taxpayers to access information, in a clear and readily understood format, about the City budget and how their tax dollars are being spent is very appealing. So it was a surprise when the resolution came up on Tuesday, in the middle of another contentious meeting, that only three members of the Council--DeStefano, Bob Donahue (Fifth Ward), and Michael O'Hara (First Ward)--voted in favor of it. Perhaps the BEA could give the effort a second try.


  1. There was no discussion as to why the opposition, so I am curious what the rationale was for those who opposed it. It's not much money. So hopefully we will find that out in due course. I am also under the impression that it will help the Treasurer do her job more efficiently, because she can generate reports, which would help in the budget setting process. But maybe my impression is wrong. I had but a very brief exchange on that with Heather.

  2. Was there no other discussion of this with the Council? I assumed there had been.

    1. There was the presentation on October 11, and the discussion that followed, and the vote on October 18. Perhaps it was discussed in the Finance Committee, but since all the members of the Finance Committee except Claudia DeStefano voted against it, that seems unlikely.

  3. Having nosed about just a tad, I suspect that Carole's instincts on this one are about where the ball sits at the moment. The issue needs to be worked some more, and perhaps a different decision will be made.