The Illusion of Transparency

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Transparency, this word conjures up all kinds of meanings and feelings. During an election year, it’s all we hear about, how lacking it is in government and we need more of it but what does it mean? Defining transparency is not as easy as you may think.  For most people transparency means disclosure, openness and accountability.

When it comes to government, I believe transparency means helping the public understand how and why decisions are made and having a discussion on the reasoning of that decision making. It is being transparent about your intentions.  

So, how is our newly elected council doing on their promise of transparency and public awareness?    Have the lofty words been followed by action? Let’s take a look at the decisions, policy changes and actions during the first six months of their tenure. You can then decide if this is more, less or the same transparency as the previous council majority.

One of the first actions of this “new “council was to raise water and sewer rates. Originally this rate hike was being pushed through without public input by Rob Weisgerber, Kathy Bailey and Ted Phelps during the “old” council but pushback resulted in a public hearing being scheduled so the public could have a discussion on the rate increase. The new council subsequently passed the increase without any real comments from them explaining their decision or plans for future innovation so that additional increases are not the norm.

Legislation was introduced regarding the Farmers Market without public       input.  The ordinances were subsequently passed by suspending council rules thereby making any discussion nonexistent.

Emails sent to council members seeking information and understanding on city matters and votes are routinely ignored by members – Kathy Bailey, Rob Weisgerber, Ted Phelps, Neil Oury, Tim Butler and Kent Blair. Should the residents expect their elected representatives to respond to inquiries regarding their decision making?  

Information that was once readily available on the city website is no longer accessible. An individual seeking council or committee packets, and minutes for previously held meetings (older than 2018) must now go through the clerk of council.  

Public records requests seeking information are often deemed overly broad, even though the city policy states that requests “should be interpreted liberally in favor of disclosure.”  Some requests not deemed overly broad are not complied within the city’s stated policy “reasonable period of time.” There are outstanding requests that are over six months old and several council members – Rob Weisgerber, Ted Phelps and Kent Blair have not responded to any of the public records requests.  

The Bike Trail Connector project was moving forward without any public input or discussion. It was actually another publication that brought this matter to the public’s attention. It was only after there was considerable chatter from the public regarding the project that council scheduled a public hearing.  During the public forum, Mayor Bailey referred to the information disseminated to the public as “fear mongering.” One public speaker took great offense at her statement and demanded a public apology.  

Several people spoke during open forum about acknowledging June 1st as Gun Violence Awareness Day. At the next meeting additional speakers spoke again on the subject and council member Kent Blair read a heartfelt statement on gun violence.  There was no discussion or comments from the other council members, the Mayor simply went on with the agenda.

Every year council presents the Rockwood Community Service Award to a distinguished member of the community, this year there were two nominations. However, only the nomination supported by the majority of council was discussed because no member of the council majority made a motion to allow a discussion on the nomination of the second distinguished individual.

It’s easy to talk about transparency and engaging the public in decisions, particularly at election time, it is delivering on the promise that is the challenge. From this person’s humble perspective the first six months of the Bailey administration has been incredibly non engaging and anything but transparent. What do you think? Send me your comments – eyeonloveland@gmail.com

Pam

Pamela Gross

President, Eye On Loveland

Be Informed. Be Involved. Be Influential