New Brookline Web site: a pretty messy product

In late afternoon Wednesday, June 25, Brookline began to display a new municipal Web site, replacing the one that the town gradually built over more than ten years. It’s pretty, but beneath the glamour are some messes. So far, 40 problems readily visible to users have been reported to the town’s Information Technology Department by the Brookline Beacon.

With some effort, the Beacon updated the links to the site in previous articles. They will still fetch information, when it is still available. However, some previously linked documents could not be found so far. Users who have maintained “bookmarks” or “favorites” will find that none of them work. There are also changes to the display of information; many documents are now found on different pages.

A potentially helpful but currently problematic area is the calendar of “events.” At School Committee on July 8, members complained agendas are now tricky to display, requiring more steps. Staff of the Planning Department are also not happy campers. Their June 30 meeting of the Housing Advisory Board had to be cancelled because of faulty notice. Problems were also found with notices for the Planning Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow, July 10.

The Planning Department relied on internal automation for the site, not visible from outside. Posting a meeting notice was previously automated to link a statement of date, time and place for a public meeting with an agenda for the meeting and to send the full notice to the town clerk’s office–where it would be printed, time-stamped, filed with other notices and posted on the town’s notice board, just outside the town clerk’s office. The automation appears to be broken. Agendas are not being linked, and either notices are not being forwarded to the town clerk’s office, or they are not being picked up, printed, time-stamped, filed and posted.

So far, only written notices posted with the town clerk have been satisfactory for compliance with Massachusetts open meeting law, because time is of the essence. There is a 48-hour requirement between posting and the start of a meeting, not counting Saturdays, Sundays, federal holidays and state holidays. Written notices at the town clerk’s office are stamped by an electromechanical recorder, but notices displayed on the Web site do not have and never have had public, verifiable time stamps.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 9, 2014

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