Editorial/Op

The Bigger Problem

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb larger    The Law – What is the bigger problem: knowing the law and ignoring it, or not knowing the law to begin with?
    For the average citizen, knowing all of the laws is not realistic, so I would say that violating a law one knows about is the bigger problem.  However, certain professions come with a burden to know the specific laws that have a bearing on their duties.  A short list of those professions would include lawyers, police officers, and elected officials.
    I spent this week dealing with what ended up being a less-than-lawful passage of Central’s 2016/2017 budget.  I have also spent a great deal of time fighting the City of Central to release public records, and some of them have been released after I resorted to a Public Records Lawsuit to make it happen.
    In my opinion, all of this could be avoided if elected officials took it upon themselves to know the laws they swore to uphold.  I believe that in this case, not knowing the law to begin with is the bigger problem.  But they also have a supposedly foolproof backup.  They have city attorneys to advise them any time they may not be sure about a law.  It would be interesting to know whether the City Attorney reviewed the budget adoption process and ordinance this year.

    Public Participation – What is the bigger problem: a government that does not make every required legal effort to ensure public participation, or the relatively few people who actually have the time and energy after working and taking care of their family to participate in the process?
    To me, it doesn’t matter if only ONE person takes advantage of access to Public Records and Open Meetings.  Ensuring that access is the responsibility of the government.  As for the 97% who elect not to participate, and instead work and raise families, they are COUNTING, whether they know it or not, on the 3% who DO choose to participate, to hold government accountable to make good decisions and spend tax dollars wisely.

    Central Speaks – What is the bigger problem: a local newspaper that is willing to ruffle some feathers while reporting the truth, offending some public officials and their supporters, or a local newspaper that is politically correct and fun to read, but avoids controversy.
    I’ll borrow a line from the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists that says it well, “Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.”
    In matters of government, I will still seek to be a good citizen and, where possible, express my concerns where I can help avoid a problem.  I did that at Tuesday’s Council meeting when I shared, before the flawed vote, that public participation requirements had not been met.  But that will only be of use if anyone wants to hear the message.
    So, in matters that are beyond my control, or where I can’t affect the outcome, I will simply report what happens.  I hope that the offense that some will take is offset by the benefit of helping to ensure open meetings, give access to public records, and keep governmental affairs visible.  That would be Good News for a Great City. 

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