Physical files

The city recently made it easier for residents to access full council packets by putting them online, eliminating the necessity of keeping bulky copies in physical files.

BRAD FUQUA, PHILOMATH EXPRESS

It's not easy finding the time to follow local government.

For those who do attend city council and school board meetings, it's an exercise in keeping an eye on local government. As the newspaper, we try to make it to the majority of these meetings, barring illness and vacation time.

But thanks to modern-day technology, there are ways to keep up with local government without actually being at a meeting. It's comforting to know that both the city and school district have taken steps to keep residents informed.

These government entities are important to us in many ways. The city council governs Philomath and makes decisions on the behalf of residents every month. The school board governs the district that makes decisions concerning our children and their education.

Just last month, city recorder Ruth Post announced that full city council packets would now be available for all to view online at the city's website. The document has always been available to the public and for those who go to meetings, a copy sits on a table near the entrance if somebody wants to look up something.

But to have it available online leading up to the meeting and in the few weeks that follow, it's a nice convenience that serves as an example of government transparency. Even for those who go to meetings, they can download it ahead of time and refer to it while councilors go through their business that evening.

One thing to keep in mind with the online city council packets is that they are eventually replaced with the most current version. So, if you want to keep them in your own files for future reference, you need to download it to your computer. That's what the newspaper does and happily, because it sure beats stuffing another physical copy of the packet in a file and then trying to find something on a certain subject at a later date.

The city also makes audio recordings of each city council meeting available on its website. Just like the packets, they are swapped out each month so if you want to keep them, you would need to download the file. The city has been making meeting recordings available for quite a while now. Audio from the city's planning commission meetings can also be found on the city's website.

The Philomath School Board also makes its full packets available online at the district's website. These include the same documents that the school board members are looking at while conducting their business at the meeting, so it's a great reference to have on hand while trying to follow it all.

Unlike the city council packets, the school board documents are available online for the past several meetings. As of this writing, packets available on the district website go back to June 2015. Packets that include revisions the night of the meeting appear to always be updated with the online version. Meeting audio is not available from the school board meetings.

The city and school district should be commended for taking those steps in the spirit of transparency.

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