Decisions Must Be Made Publicly
An opinion on open meetings by elected government bodies.
As we look in our rearview mirror at 2010, we have before us 2011, with all the plans, hopes and dreams of new opportunities and experiences.
Some pundits are predicting that we will see an upturn in the economy this year. Locally, the news appears somewhat brighter for now. At the end of last year, a $2.1 million budget for Dacula was approved allowing for an increase in pay for city employees. However, many states, cities, and municipalities have discovered in recent years that approving a budget of estimated income and expenses proves to be a challenging experience because the projected revenue may not match the expenses.
Many politicians have found themselves in a balancing act. During good economic years, it is easy to expand or grow the size of government. Citizens, many of whom support less government, often turn to the government insisting there be more services provided to the taxpayers during the good economic times. The challenge occurs when the economy takes a downturn as it has in the last several years.
A friend of mine who is in government service often says that rather than hearing from citizens, "What have you done for me lately?" many taxpayers are asking, "What are you doing for me now?" This demand from citizens for more and larger government involvement in their lives comes at a price for both the citizens and local governments.
Small cities like Dacula face great challenges when the state and federal governments pass along the cost of the services demanded by the citizenry. Much of the expense for utility cost, road upkeep and improvements within the city limit comes back to the smaller governing body. Many times, there is loss of local control as the required fees are paid for the increase in state and federal government services.
There are people in every area of the state who advocate for more services, but insist on keeping government small. It seems to me, that is one of the biggest issues facing all levels of government today. Growth is going to happen. People are moving into our region of the country. The need for more government services increases as the population grows. The tightrope that is walked by cities like Dacula comes about when some citizens clamor for growth and others advocate for keeping the town like it has always been.
I do not envy the elected body when they are faced with rezoning issues and condemnation of property in order to provide the necessary space for businesses or recreational venues that will bring more revenue into the city treasury. These decisions are sometimes justified by saying that a few will have to sacrifice the small town experience with which they are comfortable for the good of all the citizens.
As this year continues, there will be challenges requiring agreement between the elected officials and the community where they serve. To achieve success in this process, government business must be conducted in the open.
At every level of government, elected officials face the temptation to make decisions based on the major influencer or power broker in the community. The distrust of government comes about because too many of those types of decisions are made behind closed doors. The citizens will be more satisfied when there is full disclosure on each decision that affects the taxpayers.
There is a time when, at every level of government, the decision must be made to turn back the clock or to move forward. The citizens should have input into how much and how fast change is made in their town. From where I stand, the best way to make these decisions is in the open meetings with full disclosure to all interested citizens.