Daylight (Part 3 in a Series)

The Scene from Whitewater, WisconsinOne finds oneself with a question, when there are gaps in a public record, when there are easily-avoidable deficiencies of open government: What will one do about it?

A good method in this matter is deliberate, dispassionate, and diligent. A few thoughts:

1. Foundation. One looks at state and local provisions for public records and open meetings: Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31 – 19.39, Wis. Stats. §§ 19.81 – 19.98, municipal ordinances, and school district policies (1, 2).

2. Methodical. There should be a discernible method to one’s inquiries. See Steps for Blogging on a Policy or Proposal. Concerning open government, of all things, one shouldn’t undertake sudden or surprising steps.

In a situation like this, the first step should be to make an inventory of which records are now publicly available, which are now missing, and then craft formal inquiries accordingly. It’s worth taking one’s time and being thorough.

3. Foresight and fortitude. It’s right that one moves deliberately and hopefully, but it makes sense to look ahead to possible setbacks.

One can expect, as someone recently suggested, that there may be efforts to waive open-government provisions even in circumstances ‘not necessarily emergencies.’

Not everyone sees these matters the same way. One hopes for the best, but should plan for encountering and overcoming possible challenges.

4. Tranquility. Wholly serious, here: a foundation of open government is right in itself and offers a more orderly, more peaceful, more dependable way to approach one’s community. It’s the non-partisan foundation of a well-ordered politics.

In these last ten years that I’ve been writing in this small city, so many officials have held office: two city managers, three chancellors, four district administrators, and dozens upon dozens of other municipal, school district, and university officials. A commitment to simple principles would have produced more stability and been far better for Whitewater.

Whitewater hasn’t a need for more officials; steady ones are enough. Open government provides that steadiness.

Whitewater hasn’t provided the right political climate. She’s followed a model with a high and narrowly circumscribed perimeter fence. This has made work much harder for good leaders, and much easier for poor leaders. It’s a self-destructive approach.

A consistent public commitment, daily lived, is better than any press release, presentation, proposal, or project.

Previously: Twilight (Part 1) and Midnight (Part 2).

One thought on “Daylight (Part 3 in a Series)

  1. Good! There’s more p.r. than ever but that’s not important if people are missing the basics.

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