See the photo above: A regular, ordinary DeKalb County resident/DCSS parent who's made a difference.
After a few years of back and forth with DeKalb County stonewalling on improvements to the neglected Brook Run Park, Mr. John Heneghan, aka "Hene", started requesting documents, posting them online, attending and taping meetings, etc. It's not that hard, and not that expensive. He was self-taught, and put in many late night hours doing so.
When he became a City of Dunwoody councilperson, he made darn sure that every document, meeting minutes, agenda, etc. were not only posted online, he podcast and videocast meetings. Again, many late night hours.
He did it on his own dime until Dunwoody had their IT up and running.
“I am not a politician...I am a public servant.”
One ordinary, red headed Irish guy with a wife and kids doing something that the billion dollar Dekalb County School System can't seem to do, despite the fact that the current superintendent is the former head of the system's IT Dept.
Posting BOE minutes and detailed budget info., online, broadcasting all BOE meetings online, archiving them, time-stamping them, having all documents available online and easy to find? The DCSS tv station is run by a daughter of a former powerful BOE member who receives a generous six figure salary, yet had no previous experience in media, and it shows.
You would think with 100,000 students, there would be an occassional video piece highlighting the great accomplishments of our students and teachers? You would hope that some of these public meetings on re-districting would be broadcast. Hey, we're paying Cohn & Wolf a lot on money, and I'd expect local media consultant/local TV star, the condescending and defensive Mr. Jeff Dickerson, would give Ms. Guillory some advice on Media 101.
I digress. Parents, PTA officers, taxpayers, etc. should expect and demand that the Central Office & the out to lunch Board of Education follow's Mr. Henghan's lead, and operate in a manner where information is always shared easily and consistently, using multiple forms of media.
If one man army "Hene" can do so, I'm sure the DCSS Central Office, MIS Dept. and Board of Education (with Jeff Dickerson and Cohn & Wolf) can do the same.
Public’s business, plain for all to see
John Heneghan remembers the roadblocks he encountered when he’d request information from DeKalb County government. Too often, the longtime Dunwoody resident got stonewalled, ignored and met unnecessary resistance about public dealings that should have been completely in the sunshine.
When Dunwoody incorporated into a city, this tech-savvy Chicago native would capture the meetings in audio and convert them to his blog for all to hear.
Within a year, he used his own expense account to buy a webcam and laptop so he could stream meetings live and archive them, too.
When it comes to government, Heneghan believes the public should be able to access every fact he has regarding whatever issue. That includes city e-mails and documents. With him, an open records query isn’t necessary to learn what’s going on with proposal A or issue B. He’s the conduit.
Some locales have come to expect stonewalls, grandstands and arrows shot at the pesky media for attempts to simply divulge the facts.
Then in walks Heneghan.
“Dunwoody grew up under the auspices of DeKalb County, where I have had to file so many open records requests,” he told me. “We need to be the opposite of what we have broken away from. Now, everybody is used to me doing what I do in Dunwoody. It’s natural.”
Heneghan posts in his blog any e-mails and documents he receives on city-related matters. That practice propels the idea of transparency to a whole other sphere. He wants residents to help run the city.
“I am not a politician,” he told me. “I am a public servant.”
Maybe that’s the stark difference between him and other officials. This servant has an explanatory statement stripped across the top of his blog:
“First is that when I have the ability to make a difference, I have a responsibility to do so. Transparency in government breeds self-corrective behavior.”