Tech Task Force Website Meeting Tuesday

Story and picture by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – When it comes to government, the term “sunshine” is akin to “openness.” Technology has revolutionized openness in society. In that spirit, the Tech Task Force is launching a first for Cary – it’s own website. You are invited to a meeting on Tuesday evening at Page-Walker about the new website for Cary’s Tech Task Force.

Tech Task Force Website Meeting on Tuesday

For nearly two months, a Town Council-initiated Technology Task Force (TTF) has been meeting to discuss the future of technology, community and communication in Cary.

I’m a member of the group. We’ve been talking about mobile apps, social media, security, open APIs and websites.

This Tuesday, September 18 from 6-8 PM, a special subcommittee of the TTF will be meeting about launching its own website. The public is invited.

TTF  Website

I’m the chairperson of this particular Sub-committee, joined by Task Force members Eleanor Thorne and Laura Hamlyn. Our precise mission:

The purpose of the Technology Task Force (TTF) Website Sub-committee is to execute a WordPress website to promote community awareness and engagement with the work of TTF.

This new website will publicize the work of the entire Tech Task Force including the new mobile apps were considering, social media channels, video programming and engagement tactics. The TTF Website will be open for comments.

Welcome to the Revolution

No other town commission or board in Cary has its own website. No other commission or board in Cary has ever had its own website.

This is a revolution.

The problem is that open meeting and sunshine laws are 25 years behind the times. Official meetings must be open to all and publicized 48 hours in advance. So far, so good.

But in a way, a website with comments could be construed as a meeting, so it might be considered forbidden under current laws.

The Tech Task Force has always believed that we live in a 24/7 world. Current laws restrict our ability to do our work and engage the public.

Experts Weigh-In

The TTF has heard from a parade of municipal government experts, lawyers and even a newspaper executive that we can’t have our own website and can’t have comments.

“It’s a meeting!” they say.

“It’s a website,” we say. “It promotes more engagement, not less. It won’t replace what we already have, it will just augment it.”

In the end, remarkably, common sense prevailed. Town of Cary will host the TTF website. My subcommittee will build it out and set up all the Task Force members as users. You, the public, will be able to subscribe to the latest stories, post comments and ask questions.

Who Knows If It’s Legal?

The expert opinions presented to the TTF are not to be discounted. Cary is leading the way, hopefully not to the Big House in Raleigh.

If towns say the law prohibit them from using current media technology to engage citizens, the law needs to be updated.

More sunshine, not less. That’s the goal.

It feels like Cary is becoming the Technology Town once again.

Event Details

Tech Task Force Website Meeting
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
6-8 PM

Page-Walker Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Downtown Cary, NC

The public is invited to attend.

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6 replies
  1. Ian Henshaw
    Ian Henshaw says:

    Hal –
    Thank you for the meeting notice, for the information and especially for your passion.

    These meetings are open public meetings which means that anyone interested can attend and see what is going on. So far, we have had only 1 Cary citizen to attend any of our meetings or subcommittee meetings (the sole individual attending has been to 3 of our meetings!). The topics involved touch all of us and the 9 people on the Technology Task Force cannot uncover all of the issues you feel to be important to *you* without your input.

    How Cary citizens will interact with the Town’s technology offering in the future is a really big question for all of us. We need your input on what is important to you. If you cannot attend our meetings, you will now have an on-line resource to be able to give the TTF your input!

    Ian Henshaw
    Chair, Technology Task Force
    Town of Cary

  2. David Forvendel
    David Forvendel says:

    While I agree that the Open Meetings law is outdated, is knowingly and willfully violating the law the best way to lobby for a change? I will give you and the Town props for being willing to undertake the time and expense of being the test case when the inevitable formal complaint is filed.

    • Hal Goodtree
      Hal Goodtree says:

      David – Law and the interpretation thereof are not one and the same thing. We’ve been careful to adhere to both the spirit and the particulars of the law, but we’re trying a new vehicle. And change makes people uncomfortable.

      That said, nailing a notice to a tree doesn’t cut it in the age of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Web 2.0. Providing more information seems to be in the spirit of the law. It’s the practice that’s lagged behind.

      I predict we will see more of this, not less, in the months and years to come.

    • Ian Henshaw
      Ian Henshaw says:

      David –
      Please refer to the meeting minutes of the Technology Task Force and the Website Committee of the Technology Task Force. The effort currently underway by the Technology Task Force, Website Committee, is to increase citizen engagement in a way that does not create a public meeting or violate in any way the Public Meeting laws of the State of North Carolina.

      In the words of the Town of Cary “The purpose of the Website Subcommittee is to execute a WordPress website to promote community awareness and engagement with the work of TTF.”

      Best regards,
      Ian Henshaw
      Chair, Technology Task Force
      Town of Cary

  3. Ian Henshaw
    Ian Henshaw says:

    Hal –
    So the question is whether or not Cary citizens want to be involved in the process of developing Town of Cary policy for new/social media (ie. the Technology Task Force).

    There have been many pitches for people to get involved in providing input to our meetings, whether by our private invitations or by the public invitations made by Cary Citizen.

    Few have stepped up to attend our meetings (well at 4 hours, who can blame them…). We will see if a new citizen engagement platform will get more involvement. Hope shines eternal.
    Best regards,

    Ian Henshaw
    Chair, Technology Task Force
    Town of Cary

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