Sunday, October 11, 2009

Open Government

If we are truly going to have open government we need to find an effective way to give citizens access to e-mail. For the last two years or so, I have been working on a new system of saving and indexing City of Seattle e-mails. Under our current system, each employee is required to save e-mails that are substantive. If he or she does not do so, they are deleted from the system after six weeks. In the early days of e-mail, this was fine, because there weren't too many and it was easy to separate the substantive from the joke of the day. Now, so much business is conducted through e-mail that we need a better system. Some years ago, I began advocating for a comprehensive e-mail archiving system that would store and index city e-mails. I took the lead for this, because court rules surrounding discovery have moved toward broader access to electronic discovery. As the city's lawyer, it is important to me that we be able to find and produce documents that as required by court rules. I have, however, never lost sight of the fact that this new system will provide easier and more extensive access to the city's e-mails. While important, an e-mail archiving system is not the kind of thing that gets the budget writers excited, particularly in a down economy. Nevertheless, I am proud that the Mayor and Council agreed to spend nearly $1 million on a project to install such a system citywide. The City Council even made it the centerpiece of their open government initiative. After extensive work and testing, the system will begin installation next month. My department will be one of the first to install it. While it has not recieved a lot of notice, the e-mail archiving tool will continue Seattle's leadership in open government.

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