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March 12, 2013

State shines light on government with data site

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — New York state residents who want more information about their state, county and even their municipal governments were presented with a new resource Monday that provides access to an enormous collection of data.

The website, open.ny.gov — also data.ny.gov — offers access to everything from crime statistics to the locations where fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines, and local officials contacted Monday said it doesn’t create any extra demands on them.

“Not me, anyway,” Schoharie County Clerk M. Indica Jaycox said Monday.

Most local officials said they didn’t know about the new website until informed by a reporter.

Jaycox said that, in any case, the property records for which she is responsible are already posted on the county website.

“Since 2004, we have been scanning everything in anyway,” she said.

After flooding destroyed many paper records in 2011, the county’s IT people were able to quickly post electronic records.

“It was like turning a switch,” she said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the “open.ny.gov” initiative in a media release, saying that it “creates unprecedented transparency.”

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said however that city government is already transparent.

“I can’t imagine that anything that is done in Albany could impact the level of transparency in Oneonta,” he said. “And I think the (Common) Council would agree that we work very hard to make ourselves as transparent as possible. And I can’t think of any time in my three years in office where transparency has been an issue.”

Nevertheless, if you were wondering where farmers’ markets are held in Delaware County, they’re in Delhi, Deposit, Hobart, Pakatakan, Sidney and Walton. The database provides their addresses and hours of operation, as it does for Otsego, Schoharie and Chenango farmers’ markets.

If you’re curious about whether crime is going up or down on the county level or in municipalities that have their own police forces, it’s all there, although 2011 is latest year for which that data is available.

“This new website will dramatically increase public access to one of our most valuable assets — data,” Cuomo said in a media release. “As it expands and evolves over time, open.ny.gov will spark innovation, improve efficiency, promote accountability, and bring the people back into government.”

Otsego County Planning Director Karen Sullivan called the website “one-stop shopping.”

The website features economic development, health, recreation, and public services information. Its unveiling was timed to coincide with national Sunshine Week, which is designed to raise awareness about open government.