Friday, January 02, 2009

A common sense goal for 2009

"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."
~ Paul Johnson

As we face a new year and new possibilities, there are some changes I think can be made in our community to help all of us.

My column in this week's Toledo Free Press, 'Some good ideas for 2009,' focuses on three areas that we should support: transparency in government, better accessibility and an individual commitment to involvement.

These three issues are not partisan - they're not conservative or liberal or progressive; they're not Republican, Democrat or Independent. They are common sense and they are issues upon which we should all agree.

We should all insist that our government, which is supposed to work in our best interests, shares with us the information WE want to see - information which tells us how decisions are being made and how money is being spent. With today's technology, there is no excuse for government to not make available such data in easy-to-use formats so all citizens can have access.

Governments should also meet at such times that are conducive to public participation. There are plenty of ways to address meeting times and access and, again, there is no excuse for government to not make such changes.

And then there is the issue of more individual involvement in influencing the decisions and public policies that come from our governments. If our governments become more transparent and provide better access, we must follow through by actually participating. Of course, better and more accessible information will make it easier for us to do so, giving us information to use as part of the feedback we provide to our elected officials. That feedback, in turn, should spur more accessible government which will promote more involvement - a continuous cycle, but one that is toward improvement, rather than the downward spiral we've found ourselves in for so long in this area.

I hope you will join with me in asking (perhaps demanding?) that our governmental agencies and elected officials provide more transparency ... and that you will also take a more active role to influence their decisions in 2009.


Brian Schwartz said...

City Council should first go through the formality of taking the state's public document policy and adopt it as city's own.

They should then assign responsibility to a particular individual within the administration such as the public information officer.

That's the biggest problem in getting information out of the city: nobody has assigned responsibility for assuring that public information requests are filled.

Nobody in city government takes these seriously. They also don't fear any consequences for non-compliance because nobody has made them pay.

I would encourage Graphics Guy to request my email correspondence with Dep. Chief Murphy over at TPD about his request for information. You can see my frustration in trying to get the information he requested. D.C. Murphy is a fine individual who had no motive to thwart anybody's access to information. He just didn't take it seriously and, in his mind, had more important things to do.

Until accountability is there, public access to information will be curtailed. If the administration will do it to city council, they certainly have no qualms about doing it to the public

Cynical Counsel said...

As a corporation in trouble, with an ineffective CEO and a board that is stuck in stupid, should the City declare bankruptcy to empower a trustee to cut the fat, re-negotiate contracts, and sell city property for revenue. See my thoughts at

A trustee may even be able to force a change in our form of government, or, oversee the "strong mayor" for the five years a chapter 13 reorganization would be open.


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