Jackson Ward 1 City Councilman Ashby Foote proposed placing all zoning applications on the city website within 72 hours after they are submitted to the city. He also proposed placing all agendas for the Planning and Zoning Commission on the city website as well, 72 hours before a commission meeting. Mr. Foote submitted the proposal as a resolution. The resolution was submitted to the city attorney so it could be re-drafted as a proposed ordinance or order. The Planning Committee will address the proposal next week.
The resolution states:
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Jackson shall, upon receipt of a zoning application, do the following:Several people complained to this correspondent that Zoning Administrator Esther Ainsworth told them to file a public records request if they wanted to see a copy of a zoning application for the old Colonial Country Club site. Indeed, this correspondent was forced to file such a request. The city has seven business days to respond to the request and another seven business days to provide the records.
a) post the zoning, variance or other similar application on the City’s website within 72 hours of recessing said application;
b) identify on the website the property by both property description and by street/physical address;
c) post all zoning and/or planning agendas on the City website no less than 72 hours prior to any committee, council or other meeting involving such matters.
Jackson City Council President Melvin Priester, Jr. said he agreed with the intent of the proposal. He said an ordinance would be more appropriate than a resolution. Mr. Foote said the intent was to give people access to this information without making people come down to City Hall, fill out a request, and wait for a response. Mr. Priester said he wanted to change the form so "if people don't do this, we can hold them accountable for their failure" to do so. Planning & Development Director Eric Jefferson said he was not opposed to posting the applications and agendas online and said it was "a good idea". He suggested other items that could be posted online as well.
This video is from the city website. However, the sound was not the best even though the audio came from the soundbox.
This is video I shot. The video and audio is better than the city's video but I was sitting down and did not use a tripod so it is somewhat shaky.
Kingfish note: This is a good idea. Few things fire up voters as does a zoning problem. Neighborhoods will have meetings at 4:00 AM, create dozens of Facebook pages, and generally go on the warpath. Making citizens wait two to three weeks to obtain a copy of a zoning application just adds fuel to the fire. They often can not see a copy of the agenda until the day of the meeting, which adds to their irritation. This proposal will remove some of the frustration people endure when dealing with city hall. They don't care if its the zoning department, Mayor, or the City Council. They just know that they come down to City Hall and can't get any information on something affecting their neighborhood. It is all the same to them as government is government.
The city council looks like it is moving on the right direction on Mr. Foote's proposal. JJ slams them when it thinks they are wrong and will praise them when it thinks they are right. Jackson should lead Mississippi when it comes to online access to government and transparency.