New report examines transparency at Austin City Hall

Austin

The city of Austin will receive a report Tuesday on how open and transparent it is when it comes to some major decisions that impact residents’ tax dollars.

The report is from an independent organization called Open Government Partnership. It tracks governments around the world. A local researcher spent the last year examining five areas where the city has been trying to make improvements to see if it’s working:

  • Holding late-night city council meetings
  • Addressing systematic racism
  • Running the open government program
  • Making online information more accessible
  • Ending homelessness

“This report is to be used as a tool for those working on the next round of projects to see how can we make our commitment even stronger, how can we work better hand in hand with our partners, and how can local government let go of the reins and let the public make the decisions in the process,” says Raymond Weyandt, a researcher with the Open Government Partnership.

The report found many of the programs need more funding and support. For example, when it comes to homelessness, the report found several groups are working on the same issue but not together.
Researchers found one group’s data might show 2,000 people living in Austin are homeless while another group has recorded 10,000.

“One organization has all of their data in a .pdf and one organization has their data in another format so there’s a lot of legwork that has to be done so we can all see what everyone has on the books,” Weyandt says.

The report also targets the new city manager to make hiring decisions more open and transparent, something Spencer Cronk said he was supportive of doing during his town hall meetings before he was hired. However, during his hiring process city council and the mayor came under fire for not releasing the names of finalists.

“This is really important because there have been some missteps in recent months, some problems with transparency, so it’s great they are wanting an outside appraisal of how they are doing with open government,” says Kelley Shannon, the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas

 The public is invited to learn about the report’s findings at two events Tuesday: 

Time:  2:30 to 4 p.m.
Where: Austin History Center, 810 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX 78701

Time: 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Office of Innovation, 800 Guadalupe St., 1st Floor, Austin, TX 78701

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