Meeting Citizens’ Needs

July 2, 2009

I re-learned some very important things at tonight’s Denver Democrats House District 5 (HD5) meeting. Citizens want an open government- they don’t just want to know what decisions are made, but they also want to see the process in action. They need to know who the decision-makers are. And, they want access to those decision-makers. Public hearings can’t continue to be held only during working hours; that prevents working citizens from participating. Most importantly, citizens want elected officials who have solutions and have the ability to make those solutions happen.

I’m pleased that my experience in the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is leading to the realization of all of those citizen needs. Through being responsive to constituents’ inquiries and complaints we have been able to develop web-based systems (some things are still under development) that provide constituents with efficient public record filing and searching tools. Records can be filed in minutes and retrieved in real-time.

Business registration and commercial lien recording are pretty small functions of state government, but they do serve important roles in commerce. Most importantly, those are the duties assigned to the Division I work in, so we administer those duties as efficiently as possible.

Our next endeavor is to bring our constituents into our processes, into the creation of our policies, and into state government. We’re doing what democracy is meant to be. We’ve provided extraordinary constituent support for many years, but many of these efforts to further involve citizens should have been undertaken much earlier. We’re not perfect, so we’re getting underway as quickly as possible. Also, new web tools (referred to as Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0) have greatly improved our ability to involve constituents.

As an example, earlier today, we launched an informal administrative rules review effort using a Google Group to obtain feedback on the proposed rules. Using the group allows constituents to view and edit the rules and share comments with other reviewers. Participation is available to constituents who are invited to join the group or who request to join the group. That limitation is in place so that we can obtain contact information for future efforts to collaborate with the public. It shouldn’t be, but this is a unique venture, at least in the Secretary of State’s Office, into giving citizens visible, hands-on opportunities to shape government policy.

This experience can be applied to nearly every government endeavor. During today’s HD5 meeting we talked about two substantial issues- improvements to and potential re-routing of I-70; and needle exchange services, specifically the Underground Syringe Exchange of Denver (USED). (I would have hesitated to bring up the illegally operated USED, but they already have a website and people need to know about that service, not that posting here will greatly spread the word until my readership expands beyond immediate family members.)

Government officials are responsible for both proposing solutions and for obtaining public feedback on those proposals. The public is responsible for utilizing those opportunities. Together, the collective wisdom and fortitude can achieve any needed objective.