This year, MuniNet Guide celebrates its 15th anniversary. In March of 1997, after a year of research and development, the first issue of MuniNet Guide & Review was published as a 12-page hard-copy newsletter. At the time, the Internet was in its infancy, and considered by many to be uncharted territory.
I am not a gambler, but I would be willing to bet that when Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared in 500 BC that “nothing endures but change” (quoted more commonly today as “the only constant is change”), he had no way of knowing that his assertion would so aptly describe the Internet. But over the past 15 years, nothing describes the journey better.
Who could have imagined that the word “google” would make it into the official dictionary – and the mainstream vocabulary?
About a year before we published the first issue of MuniNet Guide & Review, Richard Ciccarone, publisher and owner, believed that the online world held a great deal of untapped potential. He also recognized a need for a “guide” to point users to the most relevant, reliable and innovative websites to assist users in their research related to state and local government, municipal bond issuers, public finance, urban affairs, and U.S. demographics.
Yes, a lot has changed since 1997. Who could have imagined that the word “google” would make it into the official dictionary – and the mainstream vocabulary? Or how dramatically social media has changed the way we communicate?
Municipal websites have come a long way as well. Not only has the sheer number of municipal websites multiplied tenfold, but the level of sophistication has surpassed what we even thought possible back in 1997.
From early on, MuniNet Guide was an advocate for greater transparency – through online access to budgets and financial statements, as well as meeting agendas and minutes. Even posting contact information promotes an “open-door” image and encourages interaction with government officials, staff, and policymakers. MuniNet Guide’s early model for “online excellence” incorporated these elements, now more the rule than the exception.
Through the years, we’ve seen an increase in the prevalence of online investor relations content for municipal entities, another movement we’ve supported and encouraged along the way. In addition to issuers posting official statements, annual and interim financial reports, bond ratings and upcoming bond issues, the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access system now provides a centralized repository for disclosure materials, along with municipal market trading activity, bring unprecedented transparency to the market.
The founding vision of MuniNet Guide – to be “your hub for municipal-related research” remains its tagline – and our guiding mission – today.
Unfortunately, particularly in the past couple of years, we’ve also seen an unprecedented level of fiscal distress among municipalities, prompting a number of articles about municipal bankruptcy, receivership, oversight, and “the new normal.”
While the world around us has changed, MuniNet Guide has evolved as well. MuniNet Guide & Review transitioned from a subscription-based, hard-copy newsletter to an exclusively online resource in the early 2000s.
In 2005, we unveiled a “new and improved” version of MuniNetGuide.com, with the assistance of Taylor Web Design & Development. The enhanced website included more comprehensive information pertaining to cities, counties, and states – from demographic data to maps, local school information, and expansive job listings by area.
Our editorial content has also expanded through the years, with regular input from expert guest columnists and interviews in which industry leaders share their research and insight. We’ve introduced, expanded, and enhanced features such as the Municipal Bond Calendar, which now includes many links directly to issuers’ investor relations/finance pages, and a Conference Guide that compiles information about upcoming conferences of interest to the municipal-minded.
Despite all the changes, one thing remains the same: The founding vision of MuniNet Guide – to be “your hub for municipal-related research” remains its tagline – and our guiding mission – today. As we celebrate our 15th anniversary year, we look forward to making further enhancements to MuniNetGuide.com to better guide you in your municipal-related research. Stay tuned!
Mardee Handler, managing editor