As an add-on or standalone product, ProudCity Meetings aims to fill a simple niche overlooked by larger software providers: a public meeting tool for small governments that can’t afford huge enterprise systems.
As instant, unfettered access to public information becomes the norm, older file systems for council meeting agendas and other public documents aren’t cutting it. But transparency isn’t cheap, and some smaller governments especially struggle to afford the staff hours or enterprise software packages needed to comply with disclosure policies.
ProudCity, the digital government platform company that recently set up extemporaneous websites for cities destroyed by wildfire, hopes to address this problem with a new, low-cost software feature. ProudCity Meetings, announced today, adds to the company’s existing platform the ability to publish meeting agendas, minutes, videos and audio in various formats, as well as archive, search and share them.
ProudCity Chief Operating Officer Kevin Herman said Meetings is an answer to customer demand, particularly from smaller governments.
“In these very small communities, we’ve found that the town clerks or city clerks are often the ones that are reaching out to us about updating their websites, because they’re the ones … that are on the hook for rules and regulations about public information,” he said.
Herman added that ProudCity used the latest iteration of California's Brown Act as a jumping-off point for developing the program, but governments are still responsible for customizing it to meet the nuances of local law.
Expanding on the need for this tool, ProudCity CEO Luke Fretwell acknowledged there is no shortage of software products that archive and share meeting agendas. But small governments need to follow the same transparency laws as big ones, and he didn’t think expensive, feature-heavy software, especially if it’s not very customizable or interoperable, is a viable option for everyone.
“There are several tools that are similar to what we do that have been around for a long time. They’re expensive, and prohibitive for really smaller cities to purchase and leverage in a meaningful way, so what (smaller cities) have been doing is hacking their own solutions … and they’re not searchable, they’re not truly accessible, and they don’t tie into a broader content strategy,” he said. “We wanted to create something that was easy to manage, lightweight and affordable.”
ProudCity started testing Meetings in late 2018 with Fairfax, Calif., and Lucas, Texas, both towns of less than 8,000 people.
Camille Esposito, recreation and community services manager for the town of Fairfax, said up until last fall they’d been making do by posting PDFs on a “very old” website and archiving by hand. She said ProudCity Meetings has been a minor adjustment for the aging population that preferred the old website, and Fairfax staff have given feedback on how the tool might be more predictive and automated. But she said it’s an innovation for governments with a small staff that can’t afford to invest as much in outside software.
“Larger cities use management software like Granicus, and we haven’t been able to make that investment, so we wanted something that was going to automatically archive meetings, keep track of things in a date order, has things divided into sections for agenda, minutes, video, so it kind of organizes it for us,” she said.