Raiders' house | Main | Tree

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Blog openings in Springfield

After what recently happened with the Sanitary District giving themselves a major raise, then increasing the sewer rates nearly 400%, it has become obvious there's a communication gap between our civic leaders and the community. The State Journal-Register did report the rate increase, but not until days later. And, this just does not seem right, but it appears the SJ-R didn't report the salary raise until 10 months after the fact. As most raises go, that wouldn't be such a big deal. But, this one went from $750 to $1,000 per monthly meeting.

The communication gap widens when the local paper doesn't timely and properly inform the public how and when their lives are affected by the people in power. (SJ-R sewer coverage.) And, the people in power aren't exactly going out of their way to inform the citizens.

It's not just the sanitary board. There are lots of boards and commissions that aren't getting the kind of scrutiny an informed public deserves and needs. So, if anyone is of a mind to start a watchdog or activist type blog in or around Springfield, following is a list of local boards and commissions and what their members get paid:

City-county agencies

  • Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport board: $150/month
  • Springfield Mass Transit District board: $400/month
  • Springfield Metro Sanitary District board: $1,000/month plus health insurance (same time, same people as the Board of Local Improvement)

Sangamon County agencies

  • Deputy Merit Commission: $150/meeting
  • Building Code Board of Appeals: $300/month for members, $400/month for the chairman
  • Land Use Advisory Board: $200/meeting for members, $300/meeting for chairman
  • Citizens Advisory Commission on Animal Control: $100/month
  • Zoning Board of Appeals: $250/meeting
  • Historic Preservation Commission: $100/meeting for members, $150/month for chairman

Springfield city agencies

  • Civil Service Commission: $367.77/month for members, $429.07 for chairman
  • Liquor Control Commission: $183.89/month for members, $214.53 for chairman
  • Planning and Zoning Commission: $245.18/month for members, $275.82 for chairman

That list was compiled by the SJ-R.

Also, don't forget the boards and commissions made up of our elected officials:

  • Springfield City Council and it's committees
  • Sangamon County Board and its committees
  • Springfield School District 186
  • Springfield Park District
  • Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority (SMEAA)
  • Lincoln Land Community College
  • Capital Township
  • Various other townships
  • All the villages
  • Various road commissions and fire protection districts
  • All the other school boards in the county

There are possibly dozens more that I couldn't think of. I believe all these boards and commissions' meetings are open to the public and bloggers. Just pick a meeting, go, then put what happened in a blog. The rest should come naturally. If you're starting a new blog, get it listed with SpfldBloggers. Good luck.

Posted by Marie at April 6, 2008 12:26 PM

Comments

First off, that paper ought to be ashamed. It owes the community an apology for neglecting its responsibility and an explanation about what went wrong. Don't hold your breath that you'll get one, though.

Here are a couple other things that strike me:

Newspapers are in a death spiral because the Google and Craigslist and others have shredded their ad base and cut their circulation. They respond by cutting staff, and more staff just leave when they see what's going on. Part of what's lost is the editor/reporter knowledge of a beat or an issue that would ensure that such a basic story would get covered in a knowledgeable and timely way. When the dwindling number of faithful readers see what's going on, more desert the paper and the cycle repeats itself. Your idea about blogger coverage is a good one. But the only way it will work is if it's organized in some way. (See this Chicago example: http://poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=140354.)

The other thing: From reading the newspaper's coverage, it doesn't seem at all far-fetched that your town needs to spend a lot of money on sanitary infrastructure. Whether it's 175 million bucks' worth is anyone's guess, though, since there have been no watchdogs on the process (you'd sure like to know where the board's numbers came from, wouldn't you?). Beyond the absence of media oversight, where were the other responsible public officials during all this?

Posted by: Dan at April 6, 2008 9:25 PM

Dan, you're right. Missing from the paper's coverage was the lack of the paper's coverage. And, not many of the commenters in the articles noticed it.

Thanks for the pointer to the Chi-Town Daily News article. Wow! Amazing. Obviously, the Daily News is someone's dream coming true. I hope it's successful. I don't know if there's anyone around here with the background to get something like that started. It would be nice, though.

Posted by: Marie at April 6, 2008 10:26 PM

I thought about offering to set up a blog for the Sanitary Board. Getting these committees to put their meeting minutes and agendas online would be a good start. Some do and others don't.

The organization in Chicago sounds like a fun project. I wonder where they got their funding.

Posted by: Will at April 7, 2008 1:50 AM

Will: The Chi-Town Daily News got a $340,000 grant from the Knight Foundation a couple years ago. There must be other sources of funding, too, though I can't quickly come up with what they are.

Posted by: Dan at April 7, 2008 11:57 AM

Will: The Chi-Town Daily News got a $340,000 grant from the Knight Foundation last year. There must be other sources of funding, too, though I can't quickly come up with what they are.

Posted by: Dan at April 7, 2008 11:58 AM