Not enough on Price website? City thinks it's OK, getting better
Price City government is considered average when providing information to the public through websites, according to a conservative, non-profit think tank based in Salt Lake City.
Price received a "C-" in the study, created by the Sutherland Institute, which focused on city government transparency across Utah. The study was released in late November.
The institute graded 111 municipalities across the state and had 10 categories on which points could be awarded. Categories included a central tax information location, current budgets, leaders' contact information, administration contact information, council meeting minutes, financial audits, government contract, lobbying membership information, how to request public information and building permits information.
Price received 5 points out of a possible 10 and was given points for having a current budget available, leaders' contact information, administration contact information, council meeting minutes and building permit information. The city was not given points for central tax information location, financial audits, government contracts, lobbying membership information and how to request public information.
Price City Mayor Joe Piccolo has not seen the study first-hand, but was intrigued by the study's findings. He has seen the website change into what it is today and knows of the many hours spent scanning old records to be put into a database for citizens to look up.
"If there is any area that the city can improve on we will absolutely look into doing so," said Piccolo.
Nine cities received an "A-" including Salt Lake City, Provo, West Jordan, Taylorsville and Park City. No cities within the study received an "A" but 17 cities including Hanksville, Coalville, Nephi and Morgan received a grade of "F". One of the study's findings was that all of the cities that received an "F" were relatively low-population cities, with less than 8,000 people at the time of the 2000 Census.
Price City Councilor Rick Davis said that the city has been doing a very good job at keeping the public informed through the city's website and is continuing to update on a regular basis.
"I think we are very open with the public," said Davis.
While information may not be easily accessible on the website, Davis said that citizens who have questions can call the city and any council members for help.
"Anyone who wants to contact us with questions can do so," said Davis. "We're always open-minded to suggestions from citizens in helping to make the city a better place."
According to the study, each category was given a 20 minute time limit when searching each municipalities website. If the correct information was found within the time limit, a point was given. If information was found but not up-to-date, half a point was awarded. If no information was located within the time frame, no points were awarded.
The Sutherland Institute provided four suggestions cities could follow to become more transparent. These included ensuring that all 10 items on the transparency checklist are posted on the city website, include links to any and all public financial information directly on the city's home page and reviewing the city website search functions using words and phrases from the transparency checklist to ensure that search engines return "relevant, user-friendly results." The other suggestion asked that cities follow the "3 clicks and you're out" rule. All of the 10 items on the transparency checklist should be accessible from the home page in less than three clicks of the mouse, according to the study.
Councilor Jeanne McEvoy said that while the study may provide a fair assessment of the city's transparency, it may only be looking at the issue from one side.
"It's a totally myopic study," said McEvoy. "The internet is not the only way to get information from the city. We are a phone call away and citizens can get information and get their questions answered directly in person from the council, mayor and the city. Communication is a two-way street. We are moving using the electronic system but it's not the final step the city should have."
With Price being a smaller city compared to those cities including Salt Lake City and Provo which both received an "A", McEvoy said the city is doing well in providing information to the public.
"Given the size of our town, our efforts are very good," said McEvoy. "But we can always improve."
No other municipalities within Carbon County were graded.
The study can be viewed on the Sutherland Institute's website, sutherlandinstitute.org.