NY governor sees net video as key to openness

Spitzer: NY will webcast, record agency meetings, respond to freedom of information requests by email where possible.

New York's new governor, Eliot Spitzer, envisions a future of open government powered by online video, The Times Union reports.

"One of the things we have done, and I'm not sure if all the agencies have yet mechanically put things in place to move in this direction, is to webcast the meetings that are subject to the open hearing law,'' Spitzer said Tuesday. "That, I think, will lend a sense of reality to an obligation to have meetings in public.

"Webcasting will create a public access point,'' the governor explained. "It may not be viewed by anybody, but it will be there, it will be recorded, it's a record, and it will apply pressure in the appropriate way.''

New York is not exactly known as the most open state in the country, so Spitzer's approach to Internet-powered government is clearly a sea change.

"We believe in citizen access,'' Spitzer said. "There's a whole attitude in terms of compliance with FOIL requests, which obviously we will do, I hope, better than other governments have done.''

One big change that occurred even before Spitzer's election was a law that allowed citizens to make Freedom of Information requests by email.

Before that change, a FOIL request had become a kind of paperwork anachronism in an Internet age. All requests had to be in writing, sent through mail or fax. No more. Now, the legal FOIL clock for an agency to respond can start with a mouse click.

Spitzer wants to see the legislature subject to the same openness, something legislatures are traditionally resistant to.

"Absolutely,'' the governor said Tuesday, smiling. "Anything that applies to me should apply to them. There are many areas where we would like to see parallelism in the way rules apply.''

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