More of the same, or transparency? | Letters | May 29
May 29, 2009 · 4:10 PM
Given that one of the big reasons for changing to a council-manager form of government was to increase transparency in city government, it’s surprising that one of the first things to happen after the election was a decision to limit participation in an important city discussion.
The Review noted that “the (council-manager campaign) committee decided that the post-election meeting with city officials should be held privately because it feared that the necessary open dialogue would be difficult in an open setting.”
The meetings were then held in a manner that bypassed open meeting laws by never having more than three council members present at a time.
This is not a good beginning for transitioning to a more collaborative form of government. If the information that was being shared with council happened in public sessions, then it is hard to imagine why conversations now need to happen in private.
As we move forward with this new form of decision-making and management on the island, it would seem important that the whole Island has an opportunity to weigh in on how the transition occurs, what it means, and how it will be executed.
When there are post-election conversations concerning the new form of government, a better strategy to promote collaboration would be for the city to co-sponsor open public workshops.
In this way the strengths (and drawbacks) of our new form of government can be healthily discussed to invigorate the participation, transparency and change that many islanders have demanded. Such workshops would ensure that no islander is “excluded from participating in city government in a meaningful way.”
Part of the larger discussion that needs to occur next is to come to agreement on what transparency means, how it will play in city policy and how it will inform the larger decisions. This discussion must not happen in private.
Democracy is an inherently messy process, consistently involving difficult discussions among multiple, often competing perspectives, all of which have some value.
Building trust requires that we as a community demand and embrace public involvement and transparency from our fellow citizens and council. Convenience or lack of difficulty are not appropriate criteria to support the inclusion islanders found missing in the previous form of government.
Now is the perfect time to begin this new transparency.