Transparency in Government?

Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 5:45pm
Helen R. Taylor

The website “Wikipedia” defines “Transparency” as “the physical property of allowing the transmission of light through a material.” Specifically, in reference to the recent distribution of the NOC 4 page “Media Relations Policy” wherein is stated the “Goal… is to establish ‘transparency in government’.” A search of this phrase on Wikipedia lists this summary:

“Transparency in government is often credited with generating government accountability.[6]:1346 Transparency often allows citizens of a democracy to control their government while reducing government corruption, bribery, and other malfeasance.[6]:1347–50 Some commentators contend that an open, transparent government allows for the dissemination of information, which in turn helps produce greater knowledge and societal progress.[6]:1350
 
"The contemporary doctrine of open government finds its strongest advocates in those non-governmental organisations keen to counter what they see as the inherent tendency of government to lapse, whenever possible, into secrecy.
 
"Advocates of open government often argue that civil society, rather than government legislation, offers the best route to more transparent administration. They point to the role of whistleblowers reporting from inside the government bureaucracy (individuals like Daniel Ellsberg or Paul van Buitenen). They argue that an independent and inquiring press (be it printed or electronic) is often a stronger guarantor of transparency than legislative checks and balances.[7][8]
 
"Along with an interest in providing more access to data goes a corresponding concern for protecting citizens' privacy so they are not exposed to "adverse consequences, retribution or negative repercussions."[9] from information provided by governments.
 
"A relatively new vision for the implementation of open government is coming from the municipal sector. In a similar fashion to grassroots movement, open government technology expert Tobias SK Cichon postulates [1] that the swarming pressure of small local governments implementing technological open government solutions will lead to similar adoptions by larger municipalities and eventually state, provincial and federal level changes.
 
"Public and private sector platforms provide an avenue for citizens to engage while offering access to transparent information that citizens have come to expect. Numerous organizations have worked to consolidate resources for citizens to access government (local, state and federal) budget spending, stimulus spending, lobbyist spending, legislative tracking, and more.”
 
Summary: By North Ogden City directing, “Any media inquiries received by City staff will be referred immediately to their Department Head who, in turn, will immediately forward the contact to the City PIO… and verbal requests from the media… not public safety, crisis or emergency, shall be sent in writing to the PIO;” And by assigning the City Manager as the NOC PIO, has the City Council in essence eliminated the desired goal of “Transparency of Government” by mandating a very controlled government response, thus extinguishing the “transmission of light (opinions) through a material (city related issues)” thus begging the question “What are you afraid of?” This new policy smells much to me of the “fear-based” attitude that has pervaded prior City Councils. Is this really what you want to project to NOC Citizens? It is in direct contrast to many of the recent campaign pledges for “greater openness & debate” in our local government. Please reconsider, as no changes are needed.