Editorial: We’re in this together
Government transparency: It might seem the foregoing phrase is nothing more than a tired, old contradiction in terms that gets trotted out every couple of years as part of some campaign slogan or another, then packed back into the mothballs until the next election cycle rolls around.
But transparency in government is more than that. In addition to standing as one of our most effective buffers against potential abuses of power, it forms the bedrock that underlies any productive relationship between those who govern and those who are governed.
Where it is present, the public can see and participate in the genesis of the decisions affecting them.
This fosters trust.
Where it is absent, the public can see only a locked door behind which secrets are kept and decisions are made in a sterile vacuum.
This fosters suspicion.
And, when we begin to view our elected officials as shady characters who dictate their whims from behind an impenetrable curtain, we begin to view government, itself, as the enemy, inconveniently dividing ourselves into two groups: us and them.
But it’s not an “us/them” proposition, particularly at the local level, where elected officials and citizens live in the same communities, attend the same churches, shop in the same stores, care about the same issues.
And we do have issues.
There can be little argument that our community is facing difficult problems — declining revenue, an eroding tax base, a generally dim view of our collective future — and these are problems we’ll never be able to solve until and unless we pull together as one.
So, as we prepare to embark into a new year, we offer a few words of advice for our elected officials, as well as the people they serve.
Elected officials, remember that you serve at the pleasure of the people, and the decisions you make affect everyone in the community. Such decisions — from inception to development to implementation — should be made in the light of day and in full view of the public.
We realize that, sometimes, elected officials must make difficult, unpopular choices, and it is human nature to want to avoid the inevitable fallout. This is often attempted by keeping potentially contentious issues under wraps until the last possible moment. But we can’t help but think these decisions — especially the unpopular ones — would receive far better reception if the community were informed about them before the fact rather than after it, then given every possible opportunity to weigh in.
This brings us to the community. It’s vital that you take advantage of such opportunities when they are offered. Regardless of how transparent a governmental body may be, it is all for naught until the community makes an effort to objectively look at and consider what’s being revealed. So, become involved in the process and rise above the level of a sideline heckler.
Attend meetings. Speak up about the issues that concern you. Call your elected officials and have conversations with them rather than letting your involvement begin and end with a Facebook comment.
And don’t speak up only when you disagree with something; any productive dialogue tempers criticism with praise, so when you think our officials have done an especially good job, tell them so.
Too often, we make the people with whom we disagree into “the enemy,” but we must remember that we’re all members of the same community, and we all want essentially the same thing: a prosperous future for our city and our county.
Both the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners and the Craig City Council meet Tuesday, Dec. 11, and both bodies provide time for public comment. We encourage you to attend, and if you have something to say, say it.
The problems we face are difficult, but the solutions are there. Finding them will require elected officials who conduct the public’s business in public and a community involved enough to pay attention and let their thoughts be known.
We’re all in this together. So, let’s start acting like it.