Doing things differently than you've done them in the past is difficult for just about everybody. That level of difficulty is greatly magnified any time you try to make changes in how government does things. I read the editorial by the SHJ a while back concerning transparency in our county government and found the editor to have some very valid points. There is no reason that the public should not have access to the public documents that Council members have when we're trying to work through an issue. How can we expect the taxpayers to be informed enough to share their thoughts and concerns if they don't have the information?
Since taking office, I have made it a personal priority to post this type of important public information on my website, as well as the videos of all our public meetings. For those who have taken advantage of that, I believe it has been very helpful. Even when a video garners just a handful of views, at least it was available for those who needed it. I understand that other Council members such as Councilman Brown have made the decision to make videos and other information available for their constituents as well.
The problem is most people expect to go to a county sponsored website to get this information and unfortunately we have been very lacking in that area. I personally don't know of anyone who is trying to hide or keep things from the public - it's just something we haven't done and changing with the times is difficult. In the tight budget years like we're experiencing it seems easy to ignore these types of projects in light of our more urgent priorities. That's why I was very pleased with our Council last week when they stepped up and joined me in directing our staff to do whatever it takes to get this information online in a timely, user friendly format so that ALL of what we do is out in the public. We understand that "because we've always done it a certain way" is not an excuse and that an informed and involved public is the only way to achieve great representation.
Earlier this year, Council highlighted its "Public Comment Period" after years of little use or promotion. This is a section in our General Session meetings that encourages citizens to come before council and speak on any topic they wish - not necessarily those that council is focusing on that day. What a great opportunity for you to speak to our entire council about issues that you feel are important or even share a great idea for creating a more efficient and effective county government! Openness and transparency don't go very far if there is little or no two-way communication so this too is a good step in the right direction.
Although we have a long way to go to get where we need to be, there are those on Council that understand the need and the importance of being open, honest and transparent. It's not just a good idea, it's a requirement of our oath to you, the taxpayers. Please feel free to email me with any suggestions you may have to help us serve you more effectively in this area.
Regardless of the participation from us as taxpayers, we should expect, and yes, demand openness and transparency from our governments. I am glad to say that your Council has responded and is making the necessary changes. Now, our job as taxpayers is still the same: Stay Informed and Involved. Having the information available won't change anything - What you do with that information will.