Over the next couple weeks, new town boards and city councils will take their seats according to the results of November elections. In Garner, the cast of characters remains unchanged.
Regardless of the make up of the governing body, the beginning of a new legislative session is a great time for elected leaders to commit themselves publicly to the notion of open government. We believe town commissioners and councilmen should look for reasons to keep public business out in the open, rather than seeking any excuse to go behind closed doors.
Admittedly, people elected to office at the local government level are used to conducting their own personal business outside the public eye and they don’t always understand the difference between conducting their own business and conducting the public business. And when they need to conduct some unpleasant public business, elected leaders often look for opportunities to do so outside the spotlight of open government.
That kind of approach, however, engenders distrust between the government and the governed and sets up a sure scenario in which people lose faith in their government’s ability to fairly and fully represent their interests.
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There is real power in an open government – one in which all ideas are debated in front of, and vetted by, the governed. Openness removes the stain of petty politics from government and ensures that bad ideas will be exposed to decision-makers while good ideas will win the ardent support of people who must live with the results.
In Garner, one needs look no further than the recent bond issue floated before voters, which drew overwhelming support and has been a catalyst for a lot of good changes throughout the Garner community. In working to win approval of that bond issue, elected leaders went above and beyond to explain the benefits and to explain the costs and how that would impact taxpayers’ wallets. Despite the cost, voters were in line with the idea because it made good sense for the town. By being open and forthright with the governed, town leaders established the kind of rapport with the electorate that would be the envy of most any elected official.
We hope all our governing bodies will take a moment following the ceremonies of the oath of office to commit themselves publicly to a brand of government that is inclusive and inviting – one that lays out all the inner workings of government for everyone to see.