The Virtual Trusteeship — 4/9/2009

Open source and hardware neutrality mean a lot in the cloud computing world, so I am not going to provide a commercial vendor’s link about cloud computing. Rather, here is the Wikipedia entry, which I read last night and think is a suitable introduction:

If anyone decides to go further, which of course I hope they will, then in about twenty keystrokes I think they will have an idea of which vendors are leading the way in this area — both about cloud, open source and hardware neutrality.

Thanks, MikeT, for asking.

I said I would put out another idea today for our friendly three bodies, village, and districts 96 and 208. It builds on Idic5’s line: the virtual trusteeship.

Above, MikeT mentions Riverside’s evocation of a Rockwellian era, of a “Vermonter’s” common sense problem solving.

A virtual trusteeship applies contemporary capabilities to the essential element of that ideal. The New England Town Meeting form of government (from which, by the way, Yankee transplants to these plains crafted into Illinois’ village caucus, but that is another story), built on shared knowledge of issues, focused attention, discussion and joint decision making.

This process is now called a knowledge network, application communities, communities of practice or adaptive/responsive networks. People around the world interact with each other about use and functions of any number of software, hardware and other issues so that all can increase knowledge and improve productivity.

Whether with other Vermonters at the annual town meeting, or with other Genevans under Rousseau’s shady oak, or in a user group forum, the predicate for participation is shared information.

Here in Olmstedia we might try the same approach.

I had a great experience for five years at the Regional Transportation Authority in the 1990’s. It is not particularly well known, but RTA is in fact a unit of municipal government. It has directors, who come from appointing authorities, a chairman and a staff. The head of the agency, the board of directors, meets monthly, with additional committee meetings usually clustered around the main board meeting. Each month, staff prepares packets for the directors’ committee and board meetings. The packets go out usually one week before the meeting to give the directors a weekend over which to read their material. This is nearly identical to how Riverside and the school districts operate.

RTA to this day provides the board packets, with all of their contents, to anyone who signs up to receive them.

It is by this process that the Tribune and the Sun-Times know what to expect at the meetings, it is how the beloved Jackie Leavy at Neighborhood Capital Budget Project knew what was happening, how cranky critics of CTA and RTA could plan their sniping, how vendors knew if awards were being announced or contracts renewed, etc. Obviously, RTA observed Illinois law strictly and withheld all privileged items from public disclosure. Apart from those items — which were handled separately for executive session — everything went out to the public as it went out to the directors.

In no way is it a criticism of anyone operating at Riverside or the school districts to suggest that for reconciliation and progress purposes, as well as for public information and knowledge sharing, as well as for public involvement and desirable contributions from the public to the respective public bodies, as well as to promote better understanding of the issues facing all of us, that all of Olmstedia’s board packets be provided online — less non-disclosable items, of course — one week before the relevant public meeting.

I have been to meetings of several public bodies here at which members of the public were unable to receive an agenda, let alone an agenda item memorandum. I think it is fair to say that in some quarters there has been an operative, not to say stated, presumption against providing board packets to the public. That presumption should be shifted 180 degrees to a practice of disclosure unless privileged.

The idea of providing packets to the public seems quite in line with the openness and transparency calls we have heard in the campaigns from various candidadates, which is terrific. But some of these new officeholders may have to insist to staff that these steps be taken, lest they be abridged for staff convenience.

In a difficult economy, public disclosure to leverage public expertise and further equip the public with baseline knowledge of emergent issues is a money saving step, in addition to fulfillment of an ideal of common sense participation, be it at a town meeting, under oak branches or in cyberspace.

Please add, subtract, refine, improve — and most of all please toss in any reconciliation / progress ideas.

We are all in this together.

Thanks for reading.

POSTED THURSDAY APR 9, 2009 09:37 #
Explore posts in the same categories: Politics, Riverside and Olmsted

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