Friday, January 21, 2011

John Heneghan making the public’s business, plain for all to see - AJC Rick Badie

AJC Article on Heneghan
John Heneghan remembers the roadblocks he encountered when he’d request information from DeKalb County government. Too often, the longtime Dunwoody resident got stonewalled, ignored and met unnecessary resistance about public dealings that should have been completely in the sunshine.

Today, Heneghan is the District 3 at-large councilman in what two years ago became the city of Dunwoody. He routinely updates a blog, dunwoodynorth., about municipal meetings, issues, local happenings and so on.

When Dunwoody incorporated into a city, this tech-savvy Chicago native would capture the meetings in audio and convert them to his blog for all to hear.

Within a year, he used his own expense account to buy a webcam and laptop so he could stream meetings live and archive them, too.

When it comes to government, Heneghan believes the public should be able to access every fact he has regarding whatever issue. That includes city e-mails and documents. With him, an open records query isn’t necessary to learn what’s going on with proposal A or issue B. He’s the conduit.

It’s fair to say the behavior of this 43-year-old regional director for the federal Department of Transportation is atypical of political behavior we witness across the metropolis. (Think the Atlanta Public Schools’ testing scandal). Some locales have come to expect stonewalls, grandstands and arrows shot at the pesky media for attempts to simply divulge the facts.

Then in walks Heneghan.

“Dunwoody grew up under the auspices of DeKalb County, where I have had to file so many open records requests,” he told me. “We need to be the opposite of what we have broken away from. Now, everybody is used to me doing what I do in Dunwoody. It’s natural.”

Now it appears that Heneghan’s council colleagues, and officials in Alpharetta, Dunwoody and Milton, are just as intrigued with live and streaming government; with bringing municipal meetings to residents, in their living rooms. They’ve invested in the technology. Some systems allow time-stamp recordings so residents can call meetings up online and navigate to a specific agenda item.

Many folks can’t attend meetings. Some, frankly, are disinterested unless directly affected. With such technology, though, it’s even harder to say you’ve been kept in the dark on purpose. You can tap the computer and watch anytime.

Heneghan posts in his blog any e-mails and documents he receives on city-related matters. That practice propels the idea of transparency to a whole other sphere. He wants residents to help run the city.

“I am not a politician,” he told me. “I am a public servant.”

Maybe that’s the stark difference between him and other officials. This servant has an explanatory statement stripped across the top of his blog:

“First is that when I have the ability to make a difference, I have a responsibility to do so. Transparency in government breeds self-corrective behavior.”


1 comment:

Dunwoody said...

Dunwoody Club will not be fixed until mid February.
Michael Smith written statement dated 1/27/11

With the advanced planing and expter knowledge of road repairs, she made this statement "Even with this unforeseen delay, we expect to be completed six months ahead of the schedule in the City’s five year paving plan and at a savings of over $50,000. "

The city saved $50,000 and we will complete the road ahead of schedule. God help us if we try to pave another road.
I guess that's what we get for asking the City of Dunwoody for help. They take a bad situatuion and make it a living hell.

Dekalb would never done this to us.
Thanks for all the help, John.