City Bureau is expanding our government transparency work to Cleveland and Akron, in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation and Akron Community Foundation. 

By Darryl Holliday

City Bureau Community Engagement Director, Andrea Hart, talks with long-time community members in Cleveland’s Buckeye Woodland neighborhood.

City Bureau Community Engagement Director, Andrea Hart, talks with long-time community members in Cleveland’s Buckeye Woodland neighborhood.

For the past three years, City Bureau has been working in Chicago and Detroit to standardize and share information on local government. Now, we’re happy to announce that we’ll be expanding tools and technology built for our Documenters.org network to two Northeast Ohio cities—Cleveland and Akron—in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation and Akron Community Foundation. 

Following our open source City Scrapers Toolkit, and the launch of Documenters.org in January 2019, City Bureau’s Midwest footprint is growing in response to community conversations, listening tours and public events. 

In July, we were invited to Cleveland and Akron where we heard Ohioans lament local literacy rates, discuss the role of government and advocate for action. In August, we joined more than 70 journalists and resident media makers in Northeast Ohio to discuss local news and information needs. We’ve visited Community Development Corporations, community hubs and a community greenhouse. And we’ve heard an eagerness to engage that is rooted in a commitment to place. We’ll continue to work with Northeast Ohio residents to ensure City Bureau tools are serving their needs.

In Cleveland and Akron, we’ll compile a detailed list of all governmental bodies that host public meetings—and we’re not just talking about City Council here. So far we’ve found more than 150 city- and county-level government bodies that host recurring meetings that are open to the public. These meetings are where citizens directly interface with elected officials about their needs and concerns, often before any vote is taken.

Locations, dates, times and official records for local public meetings will be added to City Bureau’s Documenters.org transparency tool.

Locations, dates, times and official records for local public meetings will be added to City Bureau’s Documenters.org transparency tool.

This winter, we’ll standardize and share meeting locations, dates, times and official records for each of those agencies through our free, easy-to-browse website, Documenters.org, making it easier than ever to monitor and analyze local decisions, trace community impact and spark policy discussions. We hope residents will use this new resource to find and attend public meetings, interrogate public records, report on civic issues and build a new public record, together.

In Chicago and Detroit, our Documenters program trains and pays residents to monitor and document local government meetings in collaboration with local journalists. In both cities, the official records contained at Documenters.org—and those gathered by members of the public—provide the foundation for a new kind of reporting on local government. Centralizing local government records isn’t just good public service journalism—it’s the foundation of our Documenters network. Before the year is out, we’ll host Public Newsroom events in Cleveland and Akron to show our work and vet next steps with community members.

If you live in Ohio and have a burning tip about government agencies in Cleveland or Akron, let us know via this feedback form so we can keep your information in mind as we build. Want to stay up-to-date on our nonprofit newsroom? Sign up for our newsletter today.

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