What is Legigram?
Legigram is a web site that freely provices a concise, accessible view of contemporary legislative agendas and matters for 20+ cities.
By improving access to primary legislative documents, Legigram makes it easier for constituents and observers to stay informed, learn more about council matters, better engage with, and perchange improve local government.
Why does this exist?
This project was prompted by a conversation with a local city government reporter who explained how that the quality of their accountability and service coverage, not to mention the consequent discussion, depends in large part on how long in advance of their deadline they are able to receive and parse each council meeting agenda.
Where does the data come from?
Many municipalities in the US use a suite of software tools from a company called Granicus for all sorts of digital operations. One of their more public facing tools you may have seen is called Legistar which is used for things like posting agendas, minutes, and reports. Here's Fort Worth's Legistar site for example.
Legistar is primarily built to facilitate the operations work of the council clerk's office. As per Fort Worth's council clerk, it is not so easy for novice attendees to find or make sense of the meeting agenda.
“I can’t imagine that someone who comes to a meeting once every five years is going to be able to find (materials),” Goodall said.
Granicus's lead investor Vista Equity seems to be more concerned about their operational efficieny and profits as per business podcast appearances as well as coverage here in The Markup as per tracking data on children and here in the Wall Street Journal regarding, let's say less civicly minded efforts that were they civil employees would result in their termination and criminal charges.
Provide simple, sharp tools
We want a new user to hear about and get linked to Legigram, bookmark their city's page, and check it every few days to see what's new on the agenda. We want to be easy to learn about matters, explore attachments, and stay up to date with the minimal number of clicks, tabs, sprawl. The barriers to entry on civic engagement are high enough.
Leave it better than you found it
We want to provide concise, accurate information to users. Legigram avoids creating unnecessary URLs that might create link rot after the project ends. To that end, we link to original documents and canonical Legistar views as much as possible.
That said, UX and UI are paramount to us. We emphasize the critical data along each steps of the agenda review process. We use a content delivery network, a memory store for API hits (which also help reduce the load on Legistar), server render components, and expires headers to accelerate page load. We adapt the layout adjust for screen sizes and click/tap experiences so that it's easy to navigate on most devices. The text should be scannable and readable so we picked a typeface, DM Sans, that excels in legibility even on small screens, and we try to rein in the long event titles and filenames.
Close the loop
Avoid technocratic solutionism. Make software better for people.
How can you help Legigram?
When we add a new cities add, we introduce Legigram to local journalists and give them a shout out via a Twitter list for that city.
We will be seeking feedback on how we think we might improve and grow Legigram into 2023.