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Better government through civic engagement

Making Modernization a Reality for More Than 300 Communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Making Modernization a Reality for More Than 300 Communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

While the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the most populous state in New England, it is also packed full of very small communities, over half of which have under 10,000 residents (with 80 percent under 40,000). And the proportionally smaller budgets have traditionally kept the most advanced and capable technological solutions out of reach.

Not any longer.

Accela and zedIT have partnered to bring the Civic Platform to small towns in an affordable and quick fashion with rapid implementation packages, making the best in government modernization finally attainable to the small towns in the Commonwealth.

With built-in industry best practices specific to the needs of Massachusetts towns, the Civic Platform includes support for emerging state-level initiatives to improve user experience and citizen service.

Read the announcement.

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Yes, Open Data Day Exists, and There Are Civic Hacking Events to Celebrate It

Yes, Open Data Day Exists, and There Are Civic Hacking Events to Celebrate It
Accela has been barnstorming big cities in recent weeks, attending civic tech and open data events. Here’s a recap of several events that Accela has helped support in the first part of 2016. New York City School of Data New York City School of Data was held on international Open Data Day, joining New York with cities across the country and around the world to celebrate open data. The event also helped to commemorate the adoption of the city’s open data law. Over 260 people attended the event, which also included strong representation from young people and students that attending talks to learn about open data and getting involved with improving their neighborhoods. Accela was a sponsor of the event and I teamed up with City Councilperson Ben Kallos for a presentation on open source software, open data and open data standards. Philadelphia Democracy Hackathon In Philadelphia, an event was recently hel......
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No More Printing, Mailing, Scanning (or Hassle): The Future of "Out for Signature" in Government

No More Printing, Mailing, Scanning (or Hassle): The Future of "Out for Signature" in Government
What if I told you that you could eliminate almost all the paper, and the associated costs, from the meeting process? From agenda creation to agreement finalization, you could streamline the entire meeting process from inside a single solution. Too good to be true? It’s not. We’re pleased to announce the integration of DocuSign’s eSignature tool into Agenda and Minutes, part of our Legislative Management solution. The digital portal introduces a secure, paperless signature capability that will help governments save time and money on the legislative process. Consider this: an Intellicap study found that the average savings per electronically signed document is $22.18 and the average turnaround time is reduced by 13.5 days (97%). When I say it’ll save you time and money, I’m not kidding. Get a handle on all the agreements and contracts your meeting process produces with eSignature capabilities. Even with the automation that comes with Agenda and Minutes, there use......
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The Solar Onboarding Experience Needs a Refresh

The Solar Onboarding Experience Needs a Refresh
The below is a guest article I published in North American Clean Energy earlier this month. In 2015, the solar industry celebrated three historic moments — in Paris, world leaders came together and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach zero emissions by the middle of the 21st century; in Washington, D.C., Republicans and Democrats briefly put aside their differences and voted to extend tax credits for wind turbines and solar panels; and, fortuitously, this came on the heels of new federal regulations mandating a 32 percent cut in carbon from power plants that pollute our air by 2030. But before this is proclaimed a miracle for the planet, there is a government-created problem, from the horse and buggy era, which must be dealt with. And the solution may lie in our cities and counties. Disrupting the permit expediter Since 2008, residential solar panel installations are up nearly 2,000 percent. T......
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Evanston 311: City Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary of Its Successful 311 Call Center

Evanston 311: City Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary of Its Successful 311 Call Center
This post is part of our weeklong celebration of 311 Day on March 11th. Use the hashtag #Getthe311 to follow the celebration on Twitter. ---- Earlier this month, the City of Evanston, Illinois, celebrated the five-year anniversary of its successful 311 call center. The success of the program can be summed up by this July article in the Chicago Tribune. Columnist Christine Wolf describes how, following an accident involving her son, Evanston 311 helped drive change that brought improved signage to a dangerous intersection. “Knowing I had someone to call about an issue important to me kept the lines of communication open and positive – a much-needed reminder for this working mom,” she wrote. Since implementation, the City has received 678,101 calls, 132,270 requests, 9,916 live chats and 1,459 texts. What makes Evanston 311 worth celebrating is the City's commitment to public service. In addition to a 311 line, the City offer......
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The Open Meeting Law Experience in Westwood, Massachusetts: How We Improved Transparency and Streamlined the Entire Meeting Process

The Open Meeting Law Experience in Westwood, Massachusetts: How We Improved Transparency and Streamlined the Entire Meeting Process
First, let me say that I am not an Open Meeting Law expert, nor is my interpretation of the law fact. This is an opinion piece on how here in Westwood, Massachusetts, we have used the Open Meeting Law to keep our residents informed and remain as transparent as possible with the way our community leaders make decisions. I have worked for the Town of Westwood as the Executive Assistant for the last eight years with the primary responsibility of supporting the Town Administrator in preparing packets for the biweekly Board of Selectmen meetings, including organization of the reports, attachments and proposed actions and maintaining all the records in the office. Massachusetts Open Meeting Law (OML), M.G.L. Chapter 30A, §§18-25 was created to require communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be transparent in their governance. Westwood takes OML very seriously and we follow the law to the best of our a......
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