Monday, September 19, 2022

Transparency and Social Media

There's something that I've been telling people consistently over the last four years and will continue to do so - residents should not have to be super dialed in to the minutiae of government to know what is happening in their city.  

Unfortunately, the city has made this more difficult in the last few years.  There was a change in how minutes were taken, going from a description of what was discussed to "Action Style" where only the result of votes are published.  This means that even reading the minutes of each meeting isn't sufficient to understand why a particular decision was made.  And while meetings are available to everyone, coming to meetings all the time, or sitting through hours of video is not a reasonable expectation of people's time.  

With technology today, the City and its leaders have the ability to communicate and interact widely with residents in a way residents are most comfortable.  We are a small city and there is no reason that people shouldn't be able to ask direct questions and get direct answers from those they elect.  Commonly requested information should be available at the City's website - things like a schedule of upcoming maintenance or the latest report on our street conditions (now on the website after I asked). 

When evaluating candidates, it's one thing to say they are transparent, but it's another thing to actually be transparent.  Take social media for example.  Do they share substantive policy positions?  Do they answer questions? I've heard folks including other Councilmembers bemoan social media and platforms such as Facebook and NextDoor as things they avoid participating in.  Of course there will always be those who act as troublemakers or are bad actors, but that should not be a reason to eschew the communication medium entirely.  In our small town, most people are able to filter out the the bad actors and get to the substance of what is being shared.

Really being transparent means being available, answering questions, and accepting criticism.  That should be both the expectation and the norm.