Friday, September 14, 2012

Shedding Light on "Sunshine Review"

It’s really nice when the City of Shawnee receives a high rating in an area that has an effect on how people perceive our city.

Such could be the case with the recent release that “Sunshine Review” gave Shawnee an A+ rating in transparency of government.

At this past Monday’s city council meeting, I felt it necessary to menttion a few things about that rating. Basically what it was based on, so that there would be no confusion.

Today, I’d like to go into more detail. Keep in mind that on Monday the issue about returning to detail minutes of meetings was on the agenda. An item that many thought would provide more transparency to city proceedings. There were some who thought that the system that has been around for about 1 ½ years now of “less than action minutes” was sufficient. Even though those minutes basically did not do anything about explaining to folks what happened at the meetings.

OK, let’s start with the item posted Monday morning on the city’s website:

“Sunshine Review applauds Shawnee, Kansas for improving their transparency score from a ‘B‘ to an ‘A+.’ By enhancing their website and increasing access to information, Shawnee is proactively championing government openness and transparency.

Taxpayers in Shawnee should be proud that their government learned from Sunshine Review’s transparency checklist and made rapid improvements to allow more light into their government. We urge all of Kansas’ city and county governments to put the necessary resources into increasing their transparency like Shawnee has done.

Sunshine Review is a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. Sunshine Review collaborates with individuals and organizations throughout America in the cause of an informed citizenry and a transparent government. Since its inception in 2008, Sunshine Review has analyzed the websites of all 50 states and more than 6,000 state and local entities. In 2012, Sunshine Review at rated more than 1,500 websites."

What all of that means, is that in that organization’s opinion Shawnee scored high because of its website. Breaking that down, it means that Shawnee provides links on its web site to various items of information (i.e.meeting minutes, checkbook info, access info for government officials, etc.). But, what it does not do is rate the quality/transparency of those items. So, it is saying that there is transparency because there is a link to the minutes, but how good (transparent) are those minutes? That they do not rate.

Now here is something that I found interesting. If you go to the Sunshine Review page about Shawnee at,_Kansas you will see this comment: “This site was evaluated on Sept. 7, 2012.” That is really interesting, as that was the Friday before the Monday (Sept. 10, 2012) that the question of the way the minutes were being done was scheduled. Wasn’t that neat that the city got that rating at that most propitious time?