DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken is lamenting the lack of public engagement as the county Board of Supervisors is finalizing a nearly $90 million budget for the coming fiscal year, and he wants to use technology to help get more people engaged with county issues.
Discussions to have the board's meetings recorded began before Croken joined the Scott County's board this year. The county has already allocated $50,000 in the current fiscal year's budget to record the meetings. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins in July, included another $200,000 for that purpose.
But county Information Technology Director Matt Hirst says supervisors have not provided direction on whether to proceed with spending the money.
Croken ran for a seat on the board on the promise of more transparency and he recounts the first question people always asked him on the campaign trail: "What does the county do?"
"We should know what the county does, particularly at this time when the county is about to adopt a $90 million budget," he says.
A public hearing and vote on the budget was scheduled on Thursday evening.
Board meetings, including budget work sessions are open to the public and minutes or summaries are posted online, but Croken says it doesn't compare with having a video recording of the debates leading up to decisions.
"If we could get to a live webcasting capability and online web-based archives, this would provide online access to all Scott county residents. They could watch the portion they are most interested in," Croken says.
He believes that people want to engage with the county, particularly when the county might raise taxes or provide services they rely on.
"That money will provide for public safety, mental health, infrastructure and many other services that 175,000 residents rely on. I have to believe people care how that budget is put together," he says.
But they are finding it hard, Croken speculates. It's not just that meetings are not broadcast live or can be viewed online at a later time.
"Holding meetings on Tuesdays at 8:00 A.M. and Thursdays at 5:00 P.M. doesn't encourage public engagement," he said.
"We're quite late to the party on this issue," he said.