Newspaper Closures Affect Local Government and the Public Bears the Burden

by Michelle Martineau

newspaper-closures-affect-local-gov
Image by Bucol from Pixabay

The decline in local reporting means fewer watchdogs, a less informed electorate, and higher financing fees

These days fewer and fewer residents show up at public meetings, an occurrence we’ve lamented in this space before. More troubling perhaps is the fact that in many towns across the country fewer journalists are in attendance.

Among its most critical roles, a free press acts as a watchdog for government, helping to make democracy more transparent and to hold civic leaders accountable to the public they serve. It used to be that if you couldn’t attend a town council meeting, you could read about it the next day in your local paper. Today, for an astonishing number of communities across the U.S., that’s simply no longer the case — and we’ve only just begun to assess the figurative and literal costs of this growing, gaping void.

In the last two decades, local newspapers battling declining readership have been forced to jettison their print editions and lay off staff in droves. Newspaper employment has fallen by 55 percent since the year 2000 — and a staggering number of small-town papers have shuttered their offices all together.

A recent University of North Carolina (UNC) study reveals a net loss of almost 1,800 local newspapers since 2004. In fact, UNC has published an interactive map that shows precisely how communities in all 50 states have been affected by these closures. You can actually drill down to the county level to uncover the prevalence of news outlets (or lack thereof) in your area. Even in locations where there are still newspapers, there may not be enough reporters to adequately cover the beat let alone engage in true investigative journalism.

Without a reliable source of local news, citizens and lawmakers can’t make informed decisions about the important issues that affect daily life. Beyond that, there’s another less obvious but nevertheless concerning consequence of the recent decline in government oversight — and that’s higher financing fees. It seems lenders get nervous when no one is keeping tabs on borrowers.

A recent study by finance professors Pengjie Gao, Chang Lee, and Dermot Murphy found that municipal borrowing costs increased by 5 to 11 basis points following a newspaper closure.  And, the costs stemming from those higher interest rates is ultimately borne by taxpayers.

Can transparency help curb the cost of borrowing?

Local newspapers hold governments accountable, and in the process help to keep municipal borrowing costs low, which ultimately saves taxpayers money. While a fiscal transparency site is certainly no substitute for local reporting, it does provide a measure of self oversight that not only helps local governments build public trust and drive engagement, but may also allay some of the concerns of wary lenders. After all, putting everything on the table is a show of good faith.

When a city or town proactively opens up their data for public consumption, it shows they have nothing to hide. It also gives resource-strapped news organizations trying to cover the local beat an easily accessible online source of truth they can use in their reporting. That said, there is a difference between being transparent and being clear. And, publishing your financials as a non-searchable PDF is neither.

At ClearGov, we’re making it easier for local cities, towns, and school districts to clearly convey important fiscal, demographic, and community development information to the public, the press, and potential lenders. Our interactive, infographic-based, public-facing profiles are designed to help local governments clearly communicate important information to their constituents in a way that makes sense to everyone. And, we continue to expand our profile capabilities to include more relevant, in-depth data every day and provide more ways for interested citizens to stay informed.

For example, when a local newspaper closes, there is less publicly available information about community projects. So, ClearGov recently added templated project pages to its platform, enabling local officials to easily share timelines, budgets, blueprints, and more in one centralized location. By syndicating the content on their government website and sharing links on social media, local governments can get the word out about important community initiatives to interested constituents. The public can even subscribe to these pages to receive automated notifications every time a project detail gets updated.

Finally, as reported by Andrew Westrope in a recent Government Technology feature, ClearGov has also recently partnered with highly trafficked news sites like Patch and Ballotpedia to help local governments better reach, inform, and engage more residents. That means communities with an active ClearGov transparency site now have a new way to get their content in front of more digital consumers than ever before. Also, syndicating municipal data to these sites will provide journalists with important ClearGov metrics they can use in their local coverage.

Brock Bair Joins ClearGov Executive Team

by Chris Bullock

Gov-tech startup taps serial SaaS exec to spearhead go-to-market strategy and advance mission

brock-bair-joins-cleargovMaynard, MA (5/21/19)—ClearGov, a leading provider of affordable transparency, budgeting, and forecasting solutions for local governments, is pleased to announce Brock Bair has joined the company’s executive team filling the newly created role of vice president of marketing. Bair brings 20+ years of product marketing and demand generation expertise in the software as a service (SaaS) space, and will be charged with honing and communicating the ClearGov vision, brand, and solution set as well as expanding ClearGov’s presence across channels.

“Brock is a strategic marketer with a proven track record of driving results for high-growth startups,” said CEO Chris Bullock. “We’re pleased to welcome him to the ClearGov team and we’re confident in his ability to advance our mission to help local governments function more efficiently and effectively.”

Brock is a hands-on, data-driven marketer with extensive experience leading venture-backed tech companies to long-term growth. With his background in brand awareness, lead generation, and sales enablement at startups like Pattern, EventNut, and Smart Lunches (to name just a few), Brock is uniquely qualified to lead and mentor ClearGov’s newly expanded marketing operation.

“It’s exciting to be part of a mission-driven company like ClearGov and to be able to play a role in making democracy work better,” said Bair. “ClearGov has an accomplished marketing team in place already, and really strong leadership as well. I’m thrilled to join the team and look forward to executing scalable strategies to expand our growing community of transparent, data-driven, modern governments.”

 

About ClearGov

ClearGov is on a mission to build a community of transparent, data-driven, modern governments. ClearGov provides a full suite of turnkey, cloud-based solutions to help local municipalities drive transparency, streamline budgeting, and better engage residents.  ClearGov’s award-winning platform is currently used by hundreds of communities across 26 different states. For more information, visit www.cleargov.com.

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PRESS CONTACT:

Jena Skivington
585.507.5733
jskivington@cleargov.com

Cloud-Based Budgeting vs. Spreadsheets

by Michelle Martineau

cloud-based-budgeting-vs-excel
Making a case for a modern approach to managing government spend

Beyond the basic advantages that all cloud-based solutions offer, like anywhere/anytime access and timely, free updates, there are a whole host of reasons why it makes good fiscal sense for finance administrators at local governments and school districts to swap their unwieldy spreadsheets for a more modern approach to budgeting. Let’s get into them.

If you spend your days building out your budget in the spreadsheet netherworld that rhymes with ‘oh well,’ you’ve learned to live with (and manually work around) a process that is inherently inefficient. While we applaud your perseverance and creativity, there’s a better way — and it will not only save you time, money, and aggravation, it will free you up to do what you actually went to school for and what you’re trained to do.

Spreadsheets weren’t made for real-time collaboration or long-term forecasting for that matter — and they certainly weren’t built with municipalities in mind. They were made for organizing and calculating static data. And, that’s fine — if your line items never change and you create, review, and approve the budget all by yourself. Otherwise, the process can be … hellish.

Cloud-based budgeting is different (and not just because clouds are closer to heaven):

•  It automates the tedious, repetitive, manual tasks that stall your progress, increase your margin of error, and waste your time.

•  It’s scalable. Whether you manage a million dollar budget or a billion dollar budget, capacity is never an issue.

•  It’s collaborative. It gets everyone (committee members, councilors, leadership) on the same page — literally. Everybody works in one shared master worksheet, so there’s just one source of truth, not twenty disconnected spreadsheets.

•  It’s real time, meaning your budget worksheet is always up to date. All changes, updates, and comments are displayed as they occur and archived for future reference.

•  It’s secure. The cloud, unlike your desktop, provides backup and security in the event of natural (think hurricanes) or manmade (think coffee in your keyboard) disasters.

•  It’s affordable. You don’t have to buy special hardware or multiple seat licenses for your team. You can take advantage of the latest updates as soon as they become available, instead of waiting until you have money to upgrade everyone. And, you can be up and running fast — with ClearGov Budgets there’s virtually no downtime.

Chances are you’re not averse to modernizing your budget. You’d probably prefer to spend your days on money management and strategy, instead of mindless data entry. You just need to make a compelling case for why purchasing software services for you makes fiscal sense for your community. We hear you. And, we think efficiency, scalability, accuracy, transparency, security, and affordability are pretty compelling reasons to embrace cloud-based budgeting. But, if you’re still not convinced, here are eight very specific ways ClearGov Budgets beats spreadsheets. Feel free to share it with someone you love.

cleargov budgets beats excel

Like It or Not, Your Story is Already Being Told

by Michelle Martineau

modern governments connectedIt’s time to step up and control the narrative

The fact that data can be disseminated quickly and widely is both a feature and bug of the Information Age.

Consider that in 2012, Arab Spring activists in Iran and Egypt effectively used social media to spread the very real news of citizen uprisings to an anxious world collectively on the edge of their seats. The following year, radio host Alex Jones picked up and amplified a conspiracy theory on Twitter and YouTube that a mass shooting at Sandy Hook was staged. Feature meet bug.

If that doesn’t give you pause, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently found that false news (including conspiracy theories and urban legends) travels faster, farther, and deeper through Twitter than true news. In the words of Barack Obama, “it’s one of the great paradoxes of our time that the very technologies that empower us to do great good can also be used to undermine us and inflict great harm.”

When it comes to social media then, the best defense may just be a good offense. In a time when perception is reality, civic leaders — just like their counterparts in the business world — need to step up and own their story.

Misinformation spreads fast … And, it doesn’t take much for a tiny spark on Twitter to fuel a raging wildfire.

While you can’t be expected to police incendiary social banter and monitor Facebook Groups for falsehoods, you can shape public perception with your own narrative — backed by facts. Maintaining an open and transparent online presence can serve as a critical means of building support and dousing flames before they spread. Better still, you may prevent fires all together.

Six reasons to claim your free public-facing ClearGov profile

One free, easy way to get started telling your story is to claim your ClearGov profile. ClearGov aggregates and preloads demographic and financial data from various public sources including the U.S. Census, the state auditor’s office, the Department of Education, and more to create easy-to-digest, public-facing profiles for each community. In fact, we’ve already built profiles for 40,000+ cities, towns, and school districts across the country, including yours.

If you’re a district leader or government official, it’s easy to claim your ClearGov profile and it’s free. Just go to www.cleargov.com and enter the name of your city, town, or district to view your profile. You’ll see a blue “Claim This Page” link right in the banner.

Once you claim your page you’ll be able to unlock additional profile features that enable you to:

1. Take a deeper dive into revenues and expenditures

2. Update the financials with your own current data

3. Pick who you want to compare your town to

4. Add your town seal to your profile banner

5. Respond to public comments

6. Download a free “Transparency Center” button to use on your town’s website

Taking a proactive stance on transparency is key to building public trust and support. Start the process today by claiming your free ClearGov profile.  

The new realities of public leadershipNOTE: The preceding post contains excerpts from “The New Realities of Public Leadership: How to Adapt and Thrive in the MisInformation Age.”  For more tips on how you can start leveraging the power of the internet and other information technologies to drive transparency and build public trust, download the full ebook here.

Can Modern Cities Manage with Legacy Software?

by Michelle Martineau

A recent NPR Marketplace segment shines a spotlight on the tech challenges local governments face

The word “legacy” is often used to describe something handed down from one generation to the next. It could be money or property bequeathed in a will, or it could be the antiquated software passed from one local administration to the next. Needless to say, finding out you’re the heir apparent to a priceless Picasso is preferable to inheriting a green-screen computer that uses a programming language no longer taught in schools. Sadly, the latter is the cumbersome legacy that many municipal workers are left with as they try to deliver modern services to their communities.

Kai Ryssdal and Liz Sanchez of NPR’s Marketplace recently reported on the woeful state of information technology in the municipal sector. In a two-part radio interview, Ryssdal spoke first with Romy Varghese who covers technology for Bloomberg San Francisco where the local assessor’s office is still using software from the 1980s. A week later, the Marketplace team followed up with Carmen Chu elected assessor of San Francisco for her take on what it’s like to work with outdated technology.

Ryssdal confessed that he was both “surprised and horrified” to hear that many local governments — especially San Francisco with its proximity to Silicon Valley (AKA: the cradle of tech innovation) — rely on antiquated systems to assess taxes and fund vital community services. Unfortunately, having to make do with limited resources is a familiar refrain in municipal circles and a conversation we at ClearGov often have with our clients and prospects. So, while we weren’t “surprised” by the Marketplace report, a few (energy-efficient) lightbulbs did go off:

1. Willfully or not, the public is in the dark.

These Marketplace segments on NPR function like a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for municipalities. And by that I mean they serve to raise awareness and may help change public attitude. The fact is unless you work in local government, work for an industry that serves local government, or are a very engaged citizen, you probably have no idea what tools your Town Hall or school district uses to crunch numbers or allocate resources. Why would you? The streets get plowed, the trash gets picked up, the school buses run.

You probably just assume that like any small business your home town is equipped with at least the basics to get the job done. Of course, if it were your small business, you’d want the best, most efficient tools you could afford for yourself and your team. But, that’s the thing. You are after all a taxpayer, so local government actually IS your business and you should want it run in the most effective way possible, right?

That’s the message civic leaders need to pass on to their constituents. Informed residents can help municipalities actually make a case for modernizing systems. For example, if every business leader and average citizen within earshot of that Marketplace radio segment were asked if they thought the people responsible for carrying out tax law and funding public safety should have 21st century software, I’m guessing the majority would say yes. And, that right there is a compelling argument for fiscal transparency in local government, something we talk about a lot here.

Citizens need to know and understand that while many local municipalities are getting by with antiquated solutions, they’re missing revenue opportunities, wasting time, and ultimately not serving the public’s best interest. Frankly, local agencies are reaching a tipping point. Soon, the question will no longer be whether they can afford to innovate, but can they afford not to.

2. Fiscal transparency done right can shed much-needed light on how revenues are collected and distributed.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” We the people need to have a frank discussion about what it takes to run a local government efficiently in the year 2019. At the heart of that conversation is a transparent and clear accounting of revenues and expenditures. We’ve talked about it many times before, but people can’t get behind what they don’t understand.

In an effort to comply with OPEN data initiatives, many municipalities have started posting PDFs of their financials on their website. Sadly, they’re not doing their residents or themselves any favors. No one is going to scroll through 200+ pages ofspreadsheets to find the line items they care about or, for that matter, the line items towns want them to support. Furthermore, if it’s an image-only PDF (that’s the kind that treats all of those pages like one giant image), it’s not even searchable. This kind of transparency does nothing to drive public awareness or build consensus, which leads us to our third lightbulb moment.

3. Who says modernizing government isn’t sexy?

Our ears perked up when Kai Ryssdal implied that tech companies weren’t interested in solving the legacy software issue for municipalities. Hello?!! It’s actually ClearGov’s mission. In addition to creating an affordable, turnkey transparency and benchmarking platform that translates dense fiscal data into interactive infographics everyone can understand, we’ve also introduced a cloud-based budgeting and forecasting solution custom-built for local governments.

Light years beyond the green-screen computers in the San Francisco tax assessor’s office, our AI-powered platform helps local governments better forecast the impact of property tax caps on revenues or contracted salary increases on future expenditures. Our solution also empowers municipal finance administrators with valuable features folks in the private sector take for granted like trend analysis, collaboration tools, audit trails, and much more. These are the tools modern cities need to make better choices and to govern as efficiently and effectively as possible, not just today but well into the future. And, because they’re cloud-based solutions, they’ll always be up to date.

Municipalities aren’t clinging to legacy software, because they like it or because the tech world isn’t offering viable alternatives. While funding is definitely a factor, it’s more complicated than that. But, we’ve got answers.

ClearGov will be exhibiting at the annual Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) conference in Los Angeles May 19th through the 21st. If you plan to attend, please stop by Booth #218 and let’s continue the conversation. Heck, we’ll even let you take our sexy tech for a test drive.

 

ClearGov Launches Unique Content Distribution Network to Attract, Inform, and Engage More Citizens

by Chris Bullock

ClearGov Launches Content Distribution Network

Gov-Tech innovator partners with Patch, Ballotpedia, and GateHouse Media to help local agencies expand their reach and battle the growing spread of misinformation

Maynard, MA (5/8/19) – ClearGov, a leader in municipal technology, announced today it has partnered with three leading media organizations to help local governments and school districts better promote their progress and performance by distributing reliable, data-rich content across highly trafficked web portals. This content includes unique, infographic-based fiscal transparency profiles powered by the most comprehensive municipal financial database in the world. To date, ClearGov has built transparency profiles for every civic entity in the United States and for every school district in six states. Now, ClearGov plans to syndicate this rich fiscal and performance data to a growing partner network of news sites that include Patch, Ballotpedia, and GateHouse Media. The goal is to help local governments reach, inform, and engage more citizens with information they can trust.

“These three popular and highly respected news outlets form the foundation of a powerful and expansive distribution network,” said ClearGov CEO Chris Bullock. “Our goal is to give local agencies broader access to the communities they serve, while simultaneously promoting their content to residents and businesses outside their community who may be looking to relocate or invest. We’re actively seeking to connect with other media sites hungry for local content and interested in sharing our fiscal, demographic, and project-related profile data with their civic-minded audiences.”

With Americans busier than ever and physical attendance at public meetings dwindling, it’s incumbent upon local agencies to uncover new ways to communicate with their constituents. ClearGov believes that distributing municipal content on highly trafficked sites like Patch, Ballotpedia, and GateHouse will empower local agencies to get the word out about community issues to more interested stakeholders.

Newly released Pew Center findings reveal nearly nine in 10 Americans currently get at least some local news digitally. Bullock said, “With more people getting their information online, it’s important for local governments to control their narrative. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s increasingly difficult for folks to discern fact from fiction. The more opportunities local governments have to get the facts out to their residents the better.”

Now, communities with an active ClearGov transparency site will have a new way to get their content in front of more of those digital consumers than ever before. Currently, Patch hosts about 1,200 ClearGov-driven profiles and Ballotpedia has published nearly 40,000. GateHouse recently launched its first ClearGov profiles and plans to extend to sites throughout its network by mid-2019.

The Patch network, which serves communities, towns, and cities in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., collectively generates about 25 million monthly unique visitors. Patch CEO Warren St. John said, “Sourcing accurate town-level government data in an age of misinformation is a challenge for both citizens and reporters. Patch’s integration with ClearGov provides both our users and our journalists with reliable and granular data about how local governments function and spend.”

Ballotpedia boasts more than 285,000 articles on its site and more than 1 billion page views since its 2007 launch. In the last year alone, the site averaged 4.3 million monthly unique visitors.  “We’re committed to providing accurate and objective information about politics at all levels of government to our growing user base,” said Ballotpedia CEO and founder Leslie Graves. “We’re excited to partner with ClearGov to empower voters with access to easy-to-understand financials so they can make better informed decisions at the ballot box.

GateHouse Media, one of the largest publishers of locally based print and online media in the country, operates in 580 markets across 37 states and reaches more than 22 million people weekly.

In aggregate, Patch, Ballotpedia, and GateHouse Media attract over 450 million page views on a monthly basis. Bullock adds, “The distribution of ClearGov content across this growing network of frequently visited news sites will help local towns and school districts deliver their data (and tell their story) to many more residents and drive further engagement with their ClearGov transparency profile,” said Bullock.

The official launch of this unique distribution network comes on the heels of ClearGov’s release of a new project communications solution that allows agency officials to quickly create and publish project pages that shine a spotlight on capital development. Project content will also be disseminated to news sites in the ClearGov network, effectively getting timely information about important community initiatives to more viewers.

About ClearGov

ClearGov is on a mission to build a community of transparent, data-driven, modern governments. ClearGov provides a full suite of turnkey, cloud-based solutions to help local municipalities drive transparency, streamline budgeting, and better engage residents.  ClearGov’s award-winning platform is currently used by hundreds of communities across 25 different states.

CONTACT:

Jena Skivington

585.507.5733

jskivington@cleargov.com

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About Patch

Patch is a hyperlocal platform that currently serves over 1,200 communities, towns and cities across the U.S. Known as “The Patch” by its users, Patch is the go-to destination for hyperlocal news and discussion about your community.

For more information regarding Patch, please visit www.patch.com.

About Ballotpedia

Ballotpedia is the online encyclopedia of American politics and elections. Its goal is to preserve and expand knowledge about politics by providing objective information about local, state, and federal politics and policies. Its content includes trustworthy information readers can rely on, covering government officials and the offices they hold, political issues and public policy, elections, candidates, and the influencers of politics. Headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin, Ballotpedia was founded in 2006. It includes over 270,000 professionally authored encyclopedic articles that have garnered over 1 billion page views.

For more information regarding Ballotpedia, please contact media@Ballotpedia.org.

About GateHouse Media, LLC

GateHouse Media, headquartered in Pittsford, New York, is a wholly owned subsidiary of New Media Investment Group Inc., which is focused primarily on investing in a high quality, diversified portfolio of local media assets and on growing existing advertising and digital marketing and business services. GateHouse Media is one of the largest publishers of locally based print and online media in the United States, as measured by its 146 daily publications. As of December 30, 2018, the company operates in over 580 markets across 37 states, reaching over 22 million people on a weekly basis and serves over 199,000 business customers. For more information regarding GateHouse Media, please visit www.gatehousemedia.com.

Talkin’ ‘Bout “Y” Generation

by Michelle Martineau

How savvy municipalities are meeting Millennials where they are (and catching some Zs in the process)

“People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)”

Released 50+ years ago, the song “My Generation” by the British rock band the Who was an anthem to the youthful angst of a burgeoning class of Boomers who, at the time, couldn’t envision getting old, let alone retiring. Like it or not, it happens to most of us. And, as they say, “it beats the alternative.”

In fact, at this very moment, approximately 40 percent of the municipal workforce is within 5 years of retirement. That means many local governments, like businesses in the private sector, need to brace for what’s sure to be a seismic generational shift. And, the most savvy municipalities are getting a head start by meeting “Y” Generation (AKA: millennials) where they are and catching some Zs in the process.

According to the Pew Research Center, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of Generation Z (the oldest of whom turn 22 this year). While there are myriad social, political, and economic factors that distinguish Boomers and Gen Xers from their Y and Z brethren, technology has to be among the biggest differentiators.

Consider this: the “World Wide Web” only became publicly available on August 6, 1991 — a fact that positions the birth of the Internet as a decidedly Millennial event. Generation Y literally came of age alongside the Internet, spending most of their years — formative and otherwise — online. It only makes sense then, that if you want to engage Millennials you need to meet them where they live (in cyberspace). And, that’s a reality that many civic leaders across the country are starting to embrace.

At ClearGov, we talk to local officials all day every day and we sometimes hear complaints that young Americans aren’t as politically engaged or civic-minded as previous generations. We couldn’t disagree more, and a recent survey by GenForward and NBC News also begs to differ. The poll shows that Millennials are not only committed to affecting change, they’re prepared to work for it. Six in 10 think they have the skills and knowledge necessary to participate in politics. And 63 percent think that by participating, they can make a difference.

So, where’s the disconnect? The short answer is that it’s online. Looking for Millennials at a town meeting is like looking for goldfish in a sandbox: it’s not their thing. They grew up on the Internet, they expect information to be online and at their fingertips. And, frankly, they’re suspicious if it’s not.

So, where’s the disconnect? The short answer is that it’s online. Looking for Millennials at a town meeting is like looking for goldfish in a sandbox: it’s not their thing. They grew up on the Internet, they expect information to be online and at their fingertips. And, frankly, they’re suspicious if it’s not.

Meanwhile, their Gen Z siblings (and offspring!) grew up clutching an iPhone in their tiny little hands. If you really want to have a meaningful exchange with anyone born in the last three decades or so, you need to do it on the small screen (a laptop, an iPad, or a mobile device).

Millennials are accustomed to change and they want to be part of the solution. You just have to give them ways to get involved and invite them to join the conversation. Try this:

• Live-stream your town meetings on Facebook.

• Post your local budget in a readable format, one that’s not only accessible on a cell phone, but decipherable.

• Pitch capital improvements on social media and then drive young residents to online project pages where they can get more details and subscribe to receive automatic updates.

Today, forward-thinking civic leaders are tasked with governing in a dynamic and hyperconnected world that has no precedent. But, there are plenty of tools out there to help local officials navigate these uncharted waters and reach out to their younger constituents who are genuinely interested in how local government works and may actually want to play an active role.

Turnkey platforms like ClearGov, for example, make it easy for municipalities to share demographics, financials, project data, and more in an interactive online format that’s accessible and easy for everyone — from Boomers to Gens X, Y, and Z  — to understand. You can get started by claiming your free profile here.

Meanwhile, the sooner you connect with “Y” Generation the better. The Millennial Action Project, a nonpartisan group that supports young people in politics, says that more than 800 millennials ran for state legislative seats in 2018. More than a third, approximately 275, won. If you’re not actively building your online presence, you’re missing out on a tremendous pool of talent that’s eager to be engaged.  Plus, they’re the only ones who can help you fix that weird thing that keeps happening with your cell phone. :)

5 Easy Ways to Prep for Your Annual Budget Reviews Using ClearGov

by Michelle Martineau

With the ClearGov platform, you’ve got a powerful tool at your disposal to help prepare for your annual budget review, and really any meeting (either internal or public-facing) in which you’ll be discussing finances, capital projects, or short- and long-term planning. In addition to providing taxpayers with an easy-to-understand, visual overview of your finances, your ClearGov Transparency Center can be a valuable resource for public officials engaged in strategic planning. Here are five ways you can leverage ClearGov to help get everyone on the same page and build valuable consensus.

1. Publish your proposed budget to your ClearGov site

It’s a best practice to ensure that your Fiscal Transparency Center always displays the most current data available. In fact, prior to your budget review meetings, it’s a good idea to publish your proposed budget to your ClearGov site, that way key stakeholders and even residents can follow the process as it progresses. Keep in mind, you control access to your numbers so you decide who sees what when. You can share the proposed budget internally as you prep and then open it up to the public once you’re ready to present. Just be sure to add commentary clearly indicating that the numbers shown are proposed and not yet approved. Your ClearGov client success manager can help you get your most up-to-date information uploaded to the site in a timely manner — just give us 48 hours notice and we’ll make it happen.

2. Quickly generate charts for presentations

Why recreate the wheel in Excel when you can generate compelling charts and graphs right from the ClearGov platform with a simple click? With ClearGov Insights, you have the flexibility to easily export powerful visuals to include in your presentation decks. And, if you’re using ClearGov Budgets, you have access to historical trends, forecasted projections, and additional dynamic charts to help inform both short- and long-term budget impacts. That’s important intelligence you can then share with key stakeholders, so everyone can make better informed budgetary decisions.

3. Provide context through commentary

Numbers only tell part of the story, but just a few lines of supporting text can add valuable missing context — like explain a shortfall or call attention to savings. For example, if revenue looks lower over time because the past three years included non-recurring revenue to fund a project, you can easily annotate that. Or, say you need an investment in technology upgrades, you can use commentary to justify increased expenditures in that particular category. Think of it this way: ClearGov infographics provides the what and when, and your commentary provides the why and how.

4. Use the Projects App to explain capital improvement plans and progress

If you haven’t used ClearGov’s new Projects app yet (it’s free with your Insights subscription), now’s a good time to get your feet wet — especially if you’re looking to fund capital outlays. The easy-to-use application allows you to quickly create and publish detailed project pages to your ClearGov site. These template-driven pages take only minutes to populate and post, and enable you to share proposed timelines, planning documents, budgets, and more in one centralized location. It’s a great way to educate the public and build consensus around proposed capital initiatives like new construction, renovations, and more. And, perhaps best of all, you don’t need to be a webmaster to create a project page. The process is easy and intuitive and you can empower any member of your team to post. Finally, once the page is live, visitors can subscribe to receive automated updates. You can also opt to invite visitors to ask questions or post comments in a moderated forum you control. Want help getting started? Your ClearGov client success manager is happy to show you the ropes.

5. Drive traffic to your Fiscal Transparency Center

You probably already have a link to your Transparency Center on your website (if you don’t, please reach out to your client success manager), but there are other ways you can get the word out to constituents about this valuable resource. Use every available channel, including email communications, newsletters, and social media. In fact, consider pinning a post with a link to your Transparency Center at the top of your Facebook and Twitter pages, especially as it gets closer to the date of your annual budget review. At budget presentation, be sure to include one or more slides that references the Transparency Center URL. It should also appear on any printed materials. The more people (residents, business owners, local press) you can drive to your site, the fewer inquiries you’ll have to field down the road. Plus, the whole idea behind transparency is to better engage and inform your electorate, so try to promote your ClearGov page every  opportunity you get.

We hope you find these tips helpful as you prepare for and navigate your next budget meeting. As always, please reach out if you have questions or concerns. We’re here to help!

USA Today Features ClearGov Among Best Places to Work in Boston

by Michelle Martineau

(Psst … We’re hiring! Come join our winning team!)

We’re honored to announce that ClearGov has been featured in USA Today and recognized by the compensation, culture, and career monitoring website Comparably.com as a Best Place to Work in 2019. It seems the “ClearGovernors” (aka: our employees) have spoken and they had nothing but nice things to say.  

Over the last year, workers from across the Boston region anonymously rated their employers on the Comparably website. After answering a series of over 50 structured workplace questions in core culture categories — including compensation, leadership, professional development, work-life balance, perks, and benefits — survey participants ranked ClearGov as one of the top 15 places to work.

It turns out “Making democracy work better” is more than just an awesome tagline, it’s a fun, meaningful, and rewarding way to put your talents to the test. For a small startup that’s barely four years young, ClearGov has already made a name for itself as a leader in municipal technology and a really great place to work. Last year, we doubled our client base, grew our partnership network, launched two new products, and welcomed new talent to our team — expanding our employee base by 150 percent. And, we’re still growing strong.

“It takes more than competitive wages, good benefits, and foosball to attract and retain top talent,” says ClearGov CEO Chris Bullock. “We’re pleased to have created a positive work environment and inclusive culture that rewards creativity, passion, and innovation.”

If you’re interested in working at one of the best places in Greater Boston, with the most talented team in gov tech, a frequently awesome playlist, and all the chocolate you can eat, I know just the place. And they’re hiring. Join us!

 

ClearGov Debuts Powerful New Project Communications Tool for Local Governments

by Chris Bullock

Mission-driven startup introduces affordable, scalable way to keep interested residents informed about ongoing community projects

Maynard, MA (3/14/19) – ClearGov, a leader in municipal technology, announced today it has introduced an easy new way for local governments and school districts to inform residents about capital projects and other important community initiatives.

The new ClearGov Projects application, which comes free with the ClearGov Insights platform, allows town and school officials to quickly create and publish project pages that not only shine a spotlight on capital development, but also help to spread the word far and wide. These template-driven pages take only minutes to populate and post, and allow agencies to share project timelines, documents, budgets, and more in one centralized location.

While today’s taxpayers have a vested interest in capital projects like new construction and sewer and road improvements, they don’t have a lot of time — especially at the end of a long work day when most public meetings take place (and where projects like these are typically discussed). And, with fewer beat reporters tracking local town council events, it’s increasingly difficult for citizens to stay informed about the issues they care about most.

ClearGov CEO Chris Bullock says, “ClearGov Projects gives local governments a new 24/7 communications channel that makes it easy for interested residents to get educated, updated, and provide feedback or ask questions about a highlighted project.” According to Bullock, once an agency creates a page for their project they can easily publish it to ClearGov, syndicate it to their website, and share it on social media to drive engagement.

Residents can also follow a project to keep tabs on the latest developments by simply visiting the page and clicking on the Subscribe to Project Updates button. Once subscribed, they’ll automatically receive email notifications every time information on the page gets updated. If project deadlines change or progress stalls, project page followers will be among the first to know.

The Village of Rye Brook in Westchester County, New York is already leveraging the innovative project communications tool to promote critical, public-funded construction activities in their community. Rye Brook is among the first municipalities in the country to go live with a ClearGov Project Page. An early adopter of ClearGov Insights, Rye Brook launched the state’s first infographic-based Fiscal Transparency Center back in March of 2017. Since then, another 17 New York communities have followed suit launching centers of their own, powered by ClearGov.

Last October, the Village kicked off a year-long construction project to replace its existing 80-year old public works facility with a modern new complex better equipped to meet the community’s needs. The serendipitous release of the new ClearGov Projects app gave Village Administrator Chris Bradbury an easy new way to keep Rye Brook residents informed about how the project is progressing. “Using ClearGov Projects,” he explained, “I was able to quickly publish a page that housed everything related to the new facility, including detailed blueprints and current and projected expenditures. We expect that our ClearGov Project Page will not only help keep our community better informed and engaged, but will also save my team countless hours of effort that would otherwise be required to respond to questions from our constituents.”

The page, accessible via the Village’s Transparency Site, includes pictures, a feasibility study, and other planning documents, as well as a frequently updated timeline detailing key project milestones. Bradbury says the page is particularly useful for residents who live in close proximity to the construction site and are likely to be most affected in the coming months.

Project pages also include an optional comments feature which enables page owners to invite visitors to ask questions or post feedback in a moderated forum. It’s a good opportunity for public leaders to uncover issues they perhaps weren’t aware of, and also to potentially identify previously silent supporters who can help champion a project and build consensus and momentum. ClearGov CEO Chris Bullock adds, “it’s also a great way to get a heads up on any public misconceptions so you’re not blindsided at your next public hearing.”

About ClearGov

ClearGov is on a mission to build a community of transparent, data-driven, modern governments. ClearGov provides a full suite of turnkey, cloud-based solutions to help local municipalities drive transparency, streamline budgeting, and better engage residents.  ClearGov’s award-winning platform is currently used by hundreds of communities across 23 different states.

PRESS CONTACT:

Jena Skivington
585.507.5733
jskivington@cleargov.com