Talk about transparency: Florida mayor lets anyone read his email

Wed, 2014-07-09 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Want to see what the mayor of Gainesville, Fla., is up to? You can read his email – LinkedIn requests, bizarre rants from citizens, spam and all. The city commissioners opened their inboxes to public view as well.

And the information isn’t hidden away. Gainesville built a website that lets the public view the email in inbox form, search for specific words or dates, and export selected messages to files for later review. With the exception of messages that include confidential information, all email flows automatically to the website.

Green, rants and spam

On a recent check, the public could see that Mayor Ed Braddy had – in addition to a long thread on budget issues – several outstanding LinkedIn requests, three messages sent by one citizen within 24 hours ranting about everything from fuel cells to airport metal detectors, and spam for discount web hosting.

The city decided to post the email online to show citizens it’s serious about transparency and to save staff time. Citizens get the information they’re looking for faster since they don’t have to wait for staff to respond to their email records request. Staff, meantime, don’t have as many information requests to respond to since citizens can help themselves.

A countywide effort

The idea, perhaps, came from the surrounding Alachua County, which has posted its commissioners’ email online for a decade now. This site isn’t fed automatically, but the county says the goal was never to reduce the burden of responding to requests. Rather, staff members live in the county too, and as citizens felt everyone should know what’s going on.

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