Transparency in the Public Realm: Proactively sharing with the public all that they can, should, and would want to know
There’s been a little back and forth on Facebook about my last post (https://davidrobinsonblog.com/2019/10/umch-parks-and-rec-commission-letter-to-city-council-2014-we-feel-compelled-to-put-in-writing-our-thoughts-and-recommendations/) regarding our Parks & Recreation Commission’s letter to Council (back in 2014) about UMCH. One commentator asked “where was/is the lack of transparency?” regarding City Council actions at the time. This question got me thinking about how I conceive of transparency in the public realm. Here are my thoughts:
For me, as public servant, transparency is not simply a technical or legal term related to sunshine laws—that would be a constrained, minimalist perspective. A spirit of transparency is far more than this—it is about gladly, proactively sharing with the public all that they can, should, and would want to know about the conduct of city affairs. If you believe that an informed citizenry is the basis of sound public policy, then embracing this broader notion of transparency comes naturally.
And what is the alternative? The belief that I know better? That it’s best to keep the public uninformed, or misinformed (through omission or otherwise), and thus not meddlesome? That ideas are dangerous? No thanks. And so, back in 2014 when Council deep-sixed the letter from our Parks & Recreation Commission, was this less than transparent? I think so.
And I know we can do better than this. And that we ought to—if we want to have a healthy political culture in Worthington. For lack of transparency leads to mistrust and division—whether in a household or a city—while openness fosters trust, understanding, and the possibility of creative outcomes. Let’s choose the latter.