WCC and digital democracy

Before your eyes glaze over at the next paragraph and you click away, bear with me. This is quite interesting …

Submissions for the Annual Plan 2019/20 and Revenue & Financing Policy Consultations closed last Friday. Online submissions went through four stages:

  1. Enter your name, address and contact details.
  2. Give feedback on the proposed Annual Plan 2019/20.
  3. Give feedback on the proposed Draft Revenue and Financing Policy.
  4. Add more details and/or attach documents.

All very straightforward, yes? Except the feedback questions in 2 and 3 were identical! Check ‘em out …

The headings change, but not what you’re asked about:

We are proposing to change the general rate by applying a differential with the Wellington city area. Which option do you support?
o Proposed option …
o Alternative option …

Do you want to speak to the proposed rating change at the Council hearing on Friday 7 June?
o Yes
o No

Anyone might mistakenly think “I’ve already responded to that”, click the same checkboxes and continue. I certainly did on my first time through.

The reason I went through the process again – and how I came to notice this anomaly – was that neighbours who don’t have a computer asked me to file their submission for them. No problem, as I also had one to submit on behalf of the Mt Victoria Residents Association. That’s where I struck the second issue. You can’t make more than one submission:

So, a married couple with diametrically opposed views couldn’t make a submission each. Whoever got to the computer first wins. You couldn’t make a personal submission and one on behalf of a community group. Or one for your neighbours.

(And look at the choice of language. Survey? It’s not a bloody survey, it’s a submission. Do WCC not know the difference?)

Fortunately, I’m more tech-savvy than most and use a number of different web browsers. It was just a matter of closing down Firefox, starting up Waterfox and doing the MVRA submission – which is when I spotted (and screen-grabbed) that anomaly.

That done, I then went into browser three (Chrome) to finally make my own submission, only to be greeted by this message:

Submissions apparently closed at 17:00 because the time on my computer was 17:01. Obviously, you have to have a close-off time, but in the digital world this is usually midnight. I wonder if WCC slammed down the shutters at 5:00 pm on Friday for postal submissions too.

Perhaps Council officers are this morning wondering why none of their online submitters wants to speak on the Draft Revenue and Financing Policy changes.

Perhaps they’re patting themselves on the back and chuckling at how the absence of speakers will make their jobs a whole lot easier.

Or perhaps I misjudge them. Perhaps at this very moment they’re composing an apology to all online submitters and giving them a proper chance to speak to the proposed changes. And perhaps they could get Council’s IT testers to do it because it’s pretty clear they do f#*k all else.

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