On the first day that a government was formed, the lack of transparency also took hold. For newspapers this is a key issue because governments use taxpayer monies to fund services. It’s important that taxpayers know where their money is being spent. Holding government to a high level of transparency allows taxpayers to hold their local governments accountable to them and allows for a public oversight of the decision making process.
Sometimes governments forget this and think it’s better to forge things in secret so they won’t get any flack or no one will complain. It just doesn’t work that way because someone is going to complain and when you are not transparent, it seems as if you have even more to hide.
Lack of transparency is a common complaint among newspapers. It seems to be a common thread throughout the state and other states too. An open government is essential to an informed public. You could also say that an informed public is essential to our government.
Georgia and other states have what they call “sunshine laws”. In 1932 U. S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote an article and in it stated, “Sunlight is said to be best of disinfectants, electric light the most efficient policeman.” It’s a good explanation of why open government is important.
Lack of transparency, as I said, evolved the day government was born. Even our second president John Adams, addressed the issue. “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know.” In other words, it’s important the public has access to information.
Why are some governments not upfront and open? My guess would be, fear and an unwillingness to change and continue doing business without anyone questioning actions. There is also that “good ole’ boy” system which unfortunately, is still fully functional today.
Transparency builds trust within the community. When there is no transparency it erodes trust between the community and its citizens.
With transparency, citizens can sometimes spot areas where they have input which can make a difference. Without it, apathy increases.
A transparent government makes citizens feel engaged in the community. Without it they feel ostracized.
Transparency empowers the citizens. When trust is high, citizens feel empowered to take responsibility.
Transparency helps the government focus more on its strengths and weaknesses and gives them a chance to highlight strengths. It goes a long way in instilling pride in the community. When there is pride, the local economy is the winner.
When a government becomes effective at transparency, it works with members of the community, which in turn creates a positive environment which can attract businesses.
Transparency is not just a problem in Roberta. It is pretty much nationwide, however, not always at such a high level. Back-room deals are made that the public sometimes never knows about or only gets a glimpse of from meetings. Transparency prevents deals from being made which are for the good of a certain few and not the whole community.
Sometimes the real decisions are made in committee meetings which newspapers cannot always attend because of time constraints and then only briefly mentioned in a regular meeting without enough background.
It is not only of utmost important that the newspaper demand transparency, but that the citizens demand it as well. Even if you think it won’t matter to the powers that be, demand it anyway.
Transparency means integrity which lessens the chance of corruption. It helps protect fairness and ensuring of the common good.
Governments which are consistently transparent about everything are a rare breed. It should be the norm though rather than the exception as is usually the case. Transparency allows for communication on every level.
When charters are outdated and not conducive to transparency in all areas, then perhaps it is time to update those charters. It is definitely time for the City of Roberta to update theirs. It gives almost carte-blanche authority to the mayor over personnel and other issues which can result in a misuse of power in those areas.
Such charters came from the outdated “good ole’ boy” system and while in some instances may not have been abused, in others you can be sure it has. Charters should be evolving with the change in the times.
These outdated charters serve to legitimize “secrecy”. Secrecy indicates there is something to hide whether that is the truth or not. Transparency gets rid of the notion, there is something to hide, and in the long run, makes it better for all involved.©2016
VICTORIA SIMMONS is an author, columnist, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org