Obama invites Americans 'into meetings'
December 7, 2008 - 11:22AM, smh
US president-elect Barack Obama has taken a cyber-step towards greater transparency and interactive government with a new feature on his official transition website called Seat at the Table.
The initiative launched on Saturday calls for the proceedings of meetings between the Obama transition team and outside organisations to be published on the transition website, Change.gov, and to allow members of the public to comment on them.
"In past transitions, meetings like this have been held behind closed doors," said John Podesta, co-chair of the transition team. "Not any more."
Podesta, in an email to supporters, said "the people and groups we're meeting with, the subjects of the meetings, and any documents shared in the meetings will now be made available on Change.gov.
"Most importantly, the American public can weigh in with comments or their own materials," Podesta added.
The Obama transition team also outlined the new initiative in a posting on the blog of Change.gov and in a clip on the video-sharing site YouTube.
"We look forward to benefiting from the many more voices that will now be a part of the decision-making process," Podesta said.
In a memo to members of the transition team, he said the initiative was an attempt to "ensure that we give the American people a 'seat at the table' and that we receive the benefit of their feedback."
Seat at the Table does not apply to meetings devoted to personnel matters, hiring recommendations or those concerning classified information.
When Change.gov was launched on November 6 following Obama's election victory it included an appeal to users to share their ideas by email.
But the site did not provide a public forum to display the submissions, prompting criticism from supporters wanting greater transparency and more public involvement.
Since then, the Obama transition team has taken a number of steps to follow through on his campaign pledge to increase public involvement in the political process.
Last month, it opened up a public forum for suggestions on Change.gov called Join the Discussion, inviting users to submit their views on health care, an issue Obama identified as a priority during his presidential campaign.
Obama is to be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20.
© 2008 AFP