Clerks Corner: Participate in your local government
November 2, 2017
Public service is a tough career and not for the weak or faint of heart. It takes dedicated public servants who care deeply about the future of the community to lead with courage and wisdom. With declining revenue sources, it has become quite a challenge for elected officials to balance the budget and prioritize services. Ultimately, these tough decisions have created controversy among staff and citizens, alike.
Ensuring that government actually works for the public good requires informed, active, and peaceful citizen participation. Citizen participation is an essential part of democracy, and we should all know where and how to participate in our local government. In our politically charged environment, citizens are demanding more transparency from their local government. For this reason, there are "sunshine laws," which are the rules that ensure citizens have access to their government.
The Colorado Sunshine Law requires state and local governments to discuss public business and take formal action in meetings that are open to the public. The Public Records Act guarantees citizens access to all manner of government records. Many documents can be easily found on the county's website, while others may require further research. In this instance, a formal request may be made through the county attorney's office.
The Moffat County commissioners meet at 8:30 a.m. every Tuesday to discuss county business. This meeting is open to the public, and the agenda is posted each Friday prior to the meeting. In addition, the commissioners meet in a variety of workshop settings. Their workshop schedule is also public record and is distributed among elected officials, department heads and media outlets.
The county clerk and recorder serves as the clerk to the Board of County Commissioners, transcribing and preserving the minutes of these meetings. The minutes, as well as the audio recordings, are open to public inspection. The approved minutes are then uploaded to the county's website, where they can be viewed at co.moffat.co.us. Minutes are permanent records, but the audio recordings are only maintained for a period of six months after the written minutes have been approved.
Community members are always invited to attend the Board of County Commissioner meetings. When ordinary citizens speak up and get involved, there is a greater level of transparency and accountability. To quote the very wise Confucius, "Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember. Involve me, and I will understand."
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Until next month … cheers!
Lila Herod is Moffat County clerk and recorder.