In small towns, getting civic information can be a mess. Figuring out the history or status of a request for a new stop sign can require a slog through weeks or months of PDF files of meeting agendas, minutes, and reports. Is the information public? Yes. Is it accessible? No.
“It’s very difficult to find out what’s going on,” says Sean Roche, a citizen of Newton, Mass. who has been involved in everything from zoning permits to the Transportation Advisory Group in the town of nearly 85,000 people. With some help from Matt MacDonald, the cofounder of Nearbyfyi, an API for cities and towns based in Vermont, Roche is creating Open Docket, which will combine all the history of a given agenda item in one place, making it easier for towns to post information on meeting agenda items and for citizens to follow it.