A decade or more ago, a city activist began to complain about the lack of public access to the city code.
Now, at last, it is available for free online.
The code lists every law unique to Schenectady, from when police tow an abandoned vehicle to the rules governing peddlers.
If residents had ready access to the code, they could look up the rules and requirements for anything they wanted to do, resident Pat Zollinger argued in 2005. In theory, they could avoid breaking the law.
But until now, residents had to pay a company for the code, along with an annual fee to get updates when the City Council changed the laws. Making matters worse, those updates were often delayed.
They could also visit the City Clerk’s Office to read it, but only during business hours.
Zollinger said that was unreasonable with modern technology. In 2005, she promised that she would put the code online if she was elected.
She didn’t win the election, but she bought the code and put it on her website, updating it whenever her purchased version was updated.
It remained on her site for many years, but is no longer there.
City Clerk Charles Thorne spent much of last year working to get the code on the city website. It is now available online in its entirety.
Residents can search by keyword or read through the code chapter by chapter.
When the council adds a law, it is also posted in a section called “new laws” so that residents can keep up to date.
The council’s agendas and minutes are also posted on the site.
It is available through a link on the city’s website, www.CityOfSchenectady.com/ or by going to www.ecode360.com/SC0901.
Mayor Gary McCarthy is pushing for more information to be uploaded to the city’s website, from frequently requested documents to statistical reports on city departments.
“It’s just the trend in government,” he said. “You want things to be open and transparent. You want to get more and more data out there.”
His big goal is to make it possible for residents to pay for permits and taxes online.
The beginnings of that system might be operational by summer, he said.