Mount Dora’s Government Website Keeps Growing

If you want to find out about Mount Dora city government, the first place to look is their website.

The link to the site is: http://cityofmountdora.com

There you can:

– Find out what is being discussed at council or other city committee meetings, read the minutes of meetings or listen to audio recordings of proceedings.

– Get information and updates about city projects like the Wolf Branch Innovation District, the downtown streetscape project and the city’s Envision Plan.

– Find out everything you need to know to vote–qualifications of candidates, polling locations and how to register to vote.

– Read police activity reports that are posted almost daily.

– Read up on upcoming events, find out about parks and recreation facilities and download a map of parking downtown.

– Download apps for tracking real-time crime data, local traffic updates, emergency notification and hurricane tracking;

– Get a pretty good history of the city and flip through photo albums from past events.

– Find a city job.

– Search for bid opportunities, read up on ordinances, download a development application, permit request or application for ad -valorem tax exemption.

– Locate your council member and consult a complete directory of departments and staff.

Johanna Shamblin is the city’s information technology manager, and she’s been on board since the first city website launched back in the mid 1990s.

“Originally the site was hosted internally, but as security became more of a risk, we outsourced that to a content management provider—Government Office was first, and then we upgraded to Civic Plus.”

As a result, maintenance is much easier. “You don’t have to know how to design pages any more because that functionality is built in.”

The site is normally maintained by the city’s webmaster, a position that is now open. Social media posts to Facebook and Twitter were also handled by that person.

The city website is redesigned every four years. The current version has been in place for three years, so an update will be coming next years.

Aside from the convenience of putting so much city information in one place, there is also the issue of government transparency.

Barbara Peterson is the president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee. “I suggest that government agencies post budgets, minutes, agendas, etc., on their websites, as well as commonly-requested public records such as employee salaries,” she says.

“The legislature has considered bills over the past few years that would require a certain level of government transparency, but nothing has passed that applies to local governments, and there’s nothing in our public records law that requires the posting of public records on an agency website.”

The FAF has on their website a scorecard on local government website transparency, ranking 47 Florida cities and 65 counties for the breadth and quality of information available on their site—financial records (including payments to individual vendors), spending reports, property and other tax rates, copies of contracts, leases and grants, records of all public information, contact information for elected officials, with financial disclosures and conflict of interest statements; tracking of public records requests, etc.

Mount Dora was not included in the survey, but Lake County scored 42 out of a total 100 possible points—8 points shy of the county average.

Change may be coming from the top. As a result of an unsuccessful defense of eight Sunshine Law violation lawsuits earlier this summer (carrying with it some $1.2 million in fines and legal fees), Gov. Rick Scott has adopted a new public records policy that requires public records requested by private citizens and news outlets be posted on his website.

Some say this could cut down on some of the duplication costs in providing public records, though others say that true transparency would be to provide more records online without formal requests.

Expect Mount Dora’s website to continue to grow as a rich source of a local government information as more records become available online.

Jeff Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, has a website dedicated to transparency accountability, and it’s loaded with state and local financial information. Here is the link: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Transparency/