Transparency?

Perhaps everyone is watching the rioting in Toronto or the latest football match but for posterity here is the last of the series from the Mud Creek News.

PARTICIPATION AND TRANSPARENCY

David A. Daniels

The fifth Core Principle in the 2009 Corporate Strategic Plan is “Transparency and Participatory Government.”

Based upon the Committee of Council (“C of C”) meeting held on June 7th, it is very likely that the Council will adopt the proposed Public Communication and Participation Plan along with the Public Engagement Tool Kit at the June 21 Council meeting.  (You can find drafts of these documents by going to the Town’s Website Calendar, click on June 21st agenda package.)

The documents contain a number of recommendations for action.  Here are two.  (1) Including a public question or discussion period at the end of each monthly C of C meeting.  Some residents requested that these discussions take place during the meetings, not after adjournment, as proposed, so they would be in the minutes. That suggestion appears not to have been accepted.  (2)  The Town will be required to acknowledge within five business days correspondence and “additional response . . . will be provided as appropriate.”

It was pointed out at the June 7th C of C meeting that the Plan and Tool Kit were first “baby steps” and the documents should be reviewed in a year’s time.

Maria Medioli of Ramp Up Consulting stated that the consultants had heard over and over again from citizens that they don’t know something is happening and don’t know why a decision was made.

Knowing what’s happening and why is a good description of “transparency.”

More could have been done to further transparency in Town Government.  Residents suggested that Council meetings, which were recognized as one of the four “tools” to disperse information (along with the website, kiosks and quarterly reports), be broadcast or recordings of meetings be made readily available to the public.  For example, as podcasts.  These suggestions are not in the proposed Plan or Tool Kit.

Town Council does not usually set out the reasons for its decisions.  Sometimes reasons can be gleaned from the Request for Decision forms which list “Benefits” and “Disadvantages”.  Explanations for Council decisions also may become apparent if you attend the meetings and listen to back and forth between Councillors.

It is unfortunate that the Town decided not to take a major step toward transparency: by using readily available technology to make it much easier for residents to see and/or hear how perhaps the most part of their government, the Council, works.

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