One week ago, at a Common Council meeting, one heard that Whitewater’s municipal government would use a software application to increase opportunities for residents’ input on local issues. See, Common Council meeting of 6.21.16, https://vimeo.com/171809282, beginning at 1:28:17.
Assuming that the means are reliable and accessible, more opportunities for collecting opinion are better than fewer. I’ve always supported a community of more voices over fewer.
Any number, however, needs to be informed. Surveys should mean more than merely asking people questions.
They should require, indeed reasonably must require, providing sufficient information for residents to consider a proposal knowledgeably.
One week later, this evening, the same government that seeks to reach greater numbers is itself silent about the principal terms to purchase a former supermarket building. Residents know neither the purchase amount, possible buyers after municipal purchase, or other significant terms. (See, below, the agenda for tonight’s meeting.)
This is no ordinary transaction; municipal governments don’t commonly purchase grocery buildings. Whatever one thinks of the merits of a possible deal, the residents of this community lack basic information to consider the matter.
There one finds a problem for this municipal government greater than a single purchase: in the space of a week, professions of support for residents’ input fade before closed-session deliberations. Last week it was the means of open government; this week it’s the ends of dealmaking. That’s not an enduring expression of open government and residents’ informed opinion; it’s an opportunistic picking and choosing, placing ends over means.
An ardor for open government that fades after a week is no worthy ardor. It’s as though one professed undying love for one’s spouse, unless and until someone better should come along.
There is no better.
Approve or reject, purchase or walk, yes or no: they all require a more open posture than what’s on offer.