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Transparency should not be clear as mud

Editorial by Bobby Tingle

Transparency is literally the quality or state of being transparent according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

When politicians say they conduct their business transparently they mean they do it in the open, in an honest way and not in secret. The other option is to conduct business opaquely or in a way that is not transparent. There is an illusion of secrecy and dishonesty when business is conducted in the dark. Those kept ‘in the dark’ are left to wonder.

Lately, transparent has become a buzzword among public servants and pundits. However, I am not sure all of them know what they are talking about. Conducting business openly and honestly is a good thing. To achieve that goal then who, what, when, where and why must be known, in a timely manner and displayed in a public way.

I will never forget then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, openly stating a need for secrecy or at least, she gave the appearance she could be calling for secrecy. She did so in making a case for passing a certain piece of legislation.

“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of the controversy,” Pelosi said at a National Association of Counties annual legislative conference.

There are a variety of ways to interpret that comment.

It is difficult to discern her actual intent since she made this comment in an open forum. She may have meant literally to wait until the bill is law to discover what it contains. Another explanation, or spin, on her comment is hard to accept. Maybe she meant we will never find out the good that will result from enactment of the law unless it is passed. In either case, there is at least an illusion of secrecy or risk that many find unsettling. The best I can give her is that she was transparent in her desire for secrecy.

Closer to home is the City of Orange. The last two Zoning Board of Adjustments meetings were held June 2, 2016 and September 6, 2016. The minutes of the June meeting were approved during the September meeting. A website is maintained by the city where they post meeting agendas and approved minutes. There is a specific tab designated for the Zoning Board of Adjustments. As of this writing, no documents are available there. A hard copy of the September 6 meeting agenda is available at The Orange Leader.

Two meetings are currently scheduled for Thursday, September 29, 2016. Both will be held at the Orange Public Library Auditorium. One is scheduled at 5:15 p.m. and is a special call meeting of the City Council. You can get the agenda on their website at http://www.orangetexas.net/city-government/meetings-and-agendas/city-council-agendas/.

The other meeting is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. at the same location. It is a special call meeting as well. It is a joint City Council and Zoning and Planning Commission meeting. The agenda for this meeting, at this writing, is not available at the city’s website at http://www.orangetexas.net/planning-and-zoning/. A hard copy of the meeting agenda is available at The Orange Leader office.

The City of Orange should strive for transparency. It would seem prudent to make available the agenda for both meetings on their website. This could be an oversight.

Let’s hope that is the case.

 

Bobby Tingle is Publisher of The Orange Leader. You can reach him at bobby.tingle@orangeleader.com.