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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Opening of The City Archives, Amy Burton and the accomplishment of the year 2013. Part 3

Amy Burton Head Shot Photo
City Clerk Amy Burton
Four years ago City Clerk Amy Burton took it upon herself to post all minutes of all City Boards and Commissions from 2002 to then then present day on  the City's web site. In addition to the minutes she posted the meeting agenda for each meeting and where ever possible an agenda package, a file that includes all documents, and  information  pertinent to the agenda items being discussed  at the meeting.

The purposes of the task was to provide residents with a virtual, at home, 24-7 archive of matters that came before City  Government in what has now become  the last eleven years. City Clerk.Burton chose 1992 as the starting year  because that was the first year City records were computerized and transferring them to to an online  server was for one person was a relatively easy and straightforward. 

What is curious is that almost a decade went by before another neighboring community government decided to follow her lead.

In the fall of 2012, Bloomfield Township  perhaps aware of what Burton had done decided, completed a two year intensive effort to (putting it mildly) do Amy one better. Instead of stopping at the beginning era of computerized documents, the Township went all the way back to the Township's founding in 1827. How far back is 1827 ?  Columbus discovered America in 1492. The  Jamestown settlement was 1607. Twelve years after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the Township of Bloomfield Hills began writing what happened in their neck of the world down 

Like rings on a tree stump the way records were kept speaks volumes  for the technology of the time. 

 All minutes 1827 to 1927 were hand written in script. Typewritten documents began when Herbert Hoover was president and lasted until the late 80's or early 90's when Computers took over. Computers do more than process words. Those with  good memories  or who happen to be students of the late seventies/early eighties may recall that initially "word processing"  machines were expected to compete with computers. In reality there was no competition  Computer would do it all. Process words. Search decades for relevant words or topics and reduce hundreds of pages of information into one easy to duplicate files so everyone would have a copy.

Last November the Bloomfield Township  announced that it had published all it's minutes on line going back to the founding  of the Township in 1827.  The Township triumph, the result of a two year effort that had professional assistance, a strong supporting cast, and funding from a tax base of 40,000 residents.

In  comparison to the Township and the City of Bloomfield Hills has but 3800 residents. There is no comparison  in spirit. The Township had the resources but the City had City Clerk Amy Burton who had the idea in the first place. 

Residents familiar with Burton's first efforts encouraged her to continue. Maybe not at all at once but maybe do the 1990's next or something. After  all the City had only to go back to 1932. Some even volunteered to help. 

A decade has ten years and each year has twelve months of meetings. If each meeting has a three pages of typed minutes that is 360 pages per year. 2013 (the current year) minus 1932 the year the City was founded is 81. That is 360 times 81 which is just shy of 30,000 sheets of paper. Figure in the other boards and commissions and your at close to 100,000 sheets of paer.

Numbers like that are probably why Burton never received any  official encouragement  from the City Commission or the Mayor.

 In mid March, Amy quietly let on that she was making progress on the "big one." When asked how far she back said 1950. In early April she  told this publication had she finished it. All City Commissioner Meetings going back to January 1950.Planning Commission meeting minutes  back to and including the inaugural meeting of 1944 and all Zoning  Board meeting back to the January 1946. By a quiet letter in the Agenda Pack (Amy) is not one to blow her own horn she explained what she did and added that it was accomplished at no cost to the City.

The actual mechanics of how she did it are remarkably simple but may seen baffling to the outsider. There are so many computers in the City offices with work divided among them. By shifting some from her computer to that of colleague Jennifer West Amy was able to get the ball rolling. One should also mention Mary who was there before Jenifer.

 Archiving on line is no longer new.If your Alma Mater is Ohio  State all copies of the Makio,"funny name great yearbook" are available for viewing online  If your Alma Mater is the University of Alabama, the Yearbook the Corrolla is coming on line soon. Crimson Tide fans should be looking for this work in progress.

Currently the Township Library and the Eccentric Newspaper are working to make back the paper's old issues available on line.

 As everything  goes on line it is important to realize that  Four years ago City Clerk Amy Burton was at the head of the wave. Today her almost single handed efforts has kept the city on pace with the most forward thinking communities. The residents of the City past, present, and yet to come owe her a tremendous sum of gratitude,

The City Commission Meetings Minutes of 1932 (the year of the Cities founding) t  are in bound volumes which if you wish to inspect may be through 1949 are bound and kept at City Hall. To read them, You won't need a badge or have  to mess with micro fiche to read them.  To put bound copies on computer would require expertise and equipment beyond the scope of  Amy's no budget  project.

The meeting labeled 1932 is not a meeting but a curious listing of all officers of the city, Mayors, and City Commissioners 1932 to 1984.
This publication is working on arranging them and updating the years 1985 to present day for publication.

City Government records did not really begin in earnest till the late thirties so the gap between computerized  records and bound is only 12 years or so.
Below are City Commission meeting minutes of January 10th 1950 where the minutes of the December 13, 1949 meeting were approved. It is the first of non bound minutes available on your computer. City  expenses and agenda items appear on the same page .The 100 plus agenda package came later and computerized Agenda package would not appear for archiving purposes until 2009. That too is an Amy Burton first. At least locally.

Same as now the Meeting began at 8pm and ended at 10:30.

Note the abbreviated style. Typing through carbon paper and copies was tough. A mistake had to manually corrected on each copy. Note also the gummed reinforcements. These pages were stored in a binder.

Minutes of the City's Zoning Board are available on computer from 1946  a year in which only two meetings occured.
The first meeting of the Planning Commission occurred on July 11th 1944, the date of the commission's inaugural meeting as mandated by the State of Michigan.  A five page of ordinances relating to the purpose of the commission follows. It is the oldest computerized document in the City's archives. The hand written notations above concerning famous names and their term of office are fascinating  footnotes in history.

Thank you Amy Burton !

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