To the Editor,
Re: Public needs to participate, Opinion, June 14.
In the editorial, the author discusses transparency and public participation at city hall.
It makes a case that the public may be the author of its own blindness as we pay too little attention. It argues that “Council can only be truly transparent if the public consistently shows interest.”
I would argue that the public can only truly show interest when it is sufficiently informed to participate. Our problem is that we are left to acquiesce in the absence of the ability to do otherwise.
While I am first to point to the progress which the city has made in making information open to the public through its website, there are still miles to go before we can afford to sleep.
Agendas for council meetings appear only two business days ahead of decisions; hardly time for council to be able to soberly consider the issues which are raised, let alone for the public to review and remonstrate.
While bylaws must be passed in regular council meetings, most important issues of policy or finance are raised, discussed and decided in council’s committee of the whole meetings which have not been available to the general public by video.
Neither are they generally held in a location which can hold more than a handful of the public, nor are they held at times generally available to working people. Citizens need at least the possibility of reviewing these meetings online in video.
In the absence of a video record, the public must await meeting minutes which are prepared during, or immediately following the meeting, for at least two weeks. Recognizing that minutes remain unofficial until adopted at a subsequent meeting, why should the unofficial results not be available in a timely manner?
In these matters timing is everything. The bum’s rush might be convenient, but it breeds neither trust nor participation.
Being informed might not be a sufficient condition to induce public attention to public affairs, but it is a necessary one.