Sunday, January 2, 2011

Does it always have to be just enough to get by?

I had a conversation with a legal member of the Alabama League of Municipalities on how they were advising cities in regard to the Alabama Open Meeting Act 2005-40 in which I was told that if people wanted to know the details of a meeting agenda they could be good citizens and attend the meeting.


I told the member I was appalled she had made that statement, as it absolutely flies in the face of the spirit and intent of the Alabama Open Meeting law.  Why?  Because the spirit and intent is defined in a word contained in the name of the law and that word is "OPEN".

Government is hardly being open when an agenda leaves us wondering whether or not an item involves us, or even what the item is talking about in the first place. A citizen does not have to attend a meeting that is not well described to be a "good" citizen, and I hope you are insulted by the very thought of such.

Consider directly asking of your local government that their released agenda items go beyond having just enough to get by and actually let you know what an item on an agenda is really about. Don't buy for one second that by wanting to know what the items mean beforehand, that you are not a good citizen and remember that the entire "spirit" of the open meeting law was to be open, NOT just enough to get by.

Let's look at one of the items in the upcoming Leeds City Council Agenda:

New Business:
a) Resolution 2011-01-01 Relating to Solicitation of Bids for Site Preparation.

WHERE IS THE SITE?  What is going to be prepared and why? Is it near my property?  Is it near my children's school? How do I know if I need to attend or get in touch with a councilor beforehand based on this very limited information?  Do I need to go through the drawn out process of calling city hall to find out? Is there even enough time to find out about this since it was released, given when the meeting will occur? If I attend the meeting will it do any good if I find out I am opposed to this, or will it be too late because the council does not listen to citizens until AFTER they conduct business?

The answer to any of the above questions could be something very positive and utterly harmless, but why couldn't a better description be given in the first place to avoid all this speculation?  It could, and in fact many of the current members of the city council promised much better than this when they answered 10 questions and answers that we posed before the election that indeed helped them to get elected. Ask them nicely to fulfill their promises and don't let the discussion at hand turn to something else, they committed to being very open while they were running for office, nothing should change that commitment, including a news publisher they may or may not care for.

Is the council "bad" for leaving us wondering?  No, they are not bad people for leaving us hanging, but they are not informative people operating in a spirit of open government or living up to their campaign statements either.
David Hogan

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.  - Thomas Jefferson

1 comment:

  1. David, thank you for shinning a much needed light on this situation. When the BOE used this same practice they were critized publicly by this very administration. They even stood on platforms against this very issue. We are Feed-Up with this group! I say, "Listen to us now or you will hear us Election Time".

    Sabrina Rose