Board and Council meeting notes

Published December 13, 2011 by justicewg

I used to put all the school board and city council meeting notes up on my old blog, Grandview Watch. I got started mostly to provide easy access to the meeting notes. The websites for both bodies were primitive when I started to blog, they had no regular updates that posted the notes.

I could get the city council notes after a little nagging by email. It took them until the big website update of 2008 before they had a reliable source of meeting notes online.

The school was incredibly resistant to any updates to their procedures as everyone else was going digital. Before 2006, they used computers to type up meeting notes, but they refused to allow anyone access to these files. You had to make a request for the pages to be printed, go down to the office, and pay 15 cents per page for the privilege of reading open meeting notes. The school website update of 2007 inspired them to start posting Pdf files on a regular basis.

Another big reason to post the meeting notes on my website was the difficulty of searching inside those Pdf files. There is a way to use Google to search the school meeting notes online, if you have the google-fu to put together a term like “”field turf” site: filetype:pdf”. That is not a reliable way to do searches, if the page hasn’t been indexed you can miss instances of your term. For example, the google search I used above for the words “field turf” gave a result in two board meeting notes. A search for those words on my website shows there were five meetings in which the term was used.

The city meeting notes are completely inaccessible to search. The Pdf files are scanned pages, images of text. If you wanted to search the files you would need to OCR each page of all the meeting notes. The people in the city administration are usually good at emailing a regular text version of the notes on request, but that’s a pain that doesn’t need to be an issue. Bad city council! I will give them credit for making a lot of other city material, like BZA notes, available on the web.

Since I stopped posting meeting notes in 2009, there are now two years of records for the city and school that have no good index. I’m considering what to do, the work involved in the conversion to a html format is significant for that many files.

I’m pretty sure I will go back to doing a summary of the important parts of the meeting notes, as I did at the beginning of all the notes on the old website.
A short summary that highlights controversial content will do 90% of the work of a full index.


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