A more efficient, less costly government sounds like a pretty good idea no matter where you sit on the political spectrum.
Whether devices like iPads – small, portable devices that allow lawmakers to read lengthy documents without printing them out – are a good way to do that has been open to debate.
Cult of Mac talked to a city council member in Ridgecrest, California who has been bringing his own device to work to speed things up.
Jerry Taylor, vice mayor of the town of 27,000, first brought his MacBook Air to work to speed things up, now he brings an iPad he bought out of his own pocket.
Cult of Mac: What gear do you use for your work on the city council?
Jerry Taylor: I use my own personal iPad. I started out on council two years ago using my first gen MacBook Air, but since getting my iPad last year I have not used the MB Air much.
I use iAnnotate to read and mark up our 150+ page packets twice a month as well as use Evernote to store these and other city documents. The city clerk was already doing PDF versions, I only needed to push for them to be searchable (OCR or print directly). It works great for me.
CoM: would you be in favor of iPads in city councils as a cost-cutting measure?
Jerry Taylor: I think it would save dollars, but it might not be clear to the general public in these hard economic times with reduction in city services and therefore might not be the right time politically.
My fear is that public would view them as gadgets because they don’t understand the technology and we would again have negative press and letters to the editor. There are savings there, but we could not transition completing to a paperless meeting because of state requirements of public notice and access to meeting information. I purchased an iPad with my own money because of these political considerations.
CoM: Do the other councilors also bring their own laptops or computers, are there any other iPad users? What’s the difference between an iPad-using councilor and one without?
JT: No other council members use an iPad or laptop. The city manager uses an iPad and has scanned all relevant city documents and loaded on his iPad. The city attorney uses a laptop. I replaced a first gen MacBook Air with my iPad. I still use the MacBook Air for downloading Livescribe audio and notes from their pen as well as making large presentations.
The advantage that I have is that I can quickly search a 150+ page council agenda packet for key words quickly. I also have real-time access to previous meetings on both my iPad and in the could using Evernote. I also frequently review zoning and other map related issues using Google maps.
CoM: How would you answer tax payers who say that an iPad for city councilors are
an unnecessary expense?
JT: That is hard today with common person on the street who has never used one and looks at thousands dollars in iPads as a waste because they want us to fix the roads instead. We have not run the numbers yet on the cost for making council packets because most of my fellow council members are pretty much old school. They might have a smart phone, but that is about as far as it goes in terms of my fellow council member’s level of tech savvyness.
CoM: There have been a few instances of politicians using iPads to play games or
surf porn while on the job — how much of a risk of time wasting is there?
JT: Any IT device can be abused. I don’t see the iPad being any different than a laptop. Controls are in place on our city network, but I live with a locked down PC in my day job and that to me causes more problems than it solves. There needs to be a balance of trust vs. controls so we can get our jobs done, but still maintain the trust of the public.