I’m taking a quick 10 minutes to deviate from the long term discussion to address an article appearing the Journal News today.
The article is entitled “Not all Butler County departments joining online checkbook” and it discusses various Butler County communities intentions to put their city checkbooks online. The very last sentence of the article reads:
Despite repeated attempts, Middletown officials declined to respond to the Journal-News’ requests for comment.
I actually have multiple comments for this article.
First, we, as city staff, work very hard every day to give you the best services possible with the manpower and resources available. We are currently completing the same work with three hundred and sixty some employees that was being done by nearly 700 employees 15 years ago. Some days we are just busy. If there is a water main break, we’ll restore service before answering the Journal. If there is an active crime scene, we’ll respond and catch up on press releases later. If we don’t respond on a particular day or story, it’s because something has happened to make responding to the press a lower priority than whatever is going on at the time.
Second, the Journal news reporters generally tell us they have a 3 p.m. deadline to make the print version of the next day’s paper. Makes perfect sense to me. Whether we get asked the question one time or they make “repeated attempts” in an effort to meet their 3 p.m. deadline, our workload doesn’t change. We’re still busy. If we have the ability and desire to respond, we will, whether we get asked once or they make “repeated attempts.”
Third, I believe that part of my job is to be the Chief Advocate for the City. I live here. I love living here. I’m encouraged by what I see happening while realizing that we still have so much more work to do. This City government will not actively participate in stories in any media that reflect poorly on the community or on our image in the region. The Journal has an obligation to report all of the news. My job is to improve the community and to improve our image internally and in the region. I will not participate in stories that are contrary to that mission. Period.
Fourth, let’s talk about the online checkbook. The City of Middletown, in fact, has been working with OpenGov longer than some of the communities listed in the article. We are having a small ongoing software issue between our Finance software and the OpenGov software that doesn’t allow a clean transfer of data to OpenGov. Our finances have been online for months and you can see our data up through November 2015 at:
Our December 2015 information and our checkbook are not posting accurately in the software. We are working with the vendor on the situation and we will have our checkbook online when I know that we can reliably post real and accurate information for the public.
Remember that the Journal has about 3 paragraphs to cover a topic that I could sit and talk to you about for hours in detail. The Journal articles are necessarily brief and pointed to get one or two main points across before it becomes old news. That’s not a complaint, just a nature of the business. They can’t tell the whole story. Your local government is the most accessible and transparent it has been in the last decade. If you have questions, ask. You can post here. You can email us. You can post on Facebook or Twitter or call us … you get the idea.
Have a great day!