According to the experts at Merriam-Webster, to be transparent is to be “readily understood.” A transparent administration will be one “characterized by visibility or accessibility of information.” When I say that my leadership style is rooted in transparency, these are the criteria I have in mind.
Charlestown currently suffers from a lack of transparency.
Processes intended for public witnessing are often accomplished through private decision making not accessible to residents. On Monday, November 5th the Charlestown Board of Public Works met for a regularly scheduled meeting (a summary and full audio of this meeting are available here: BPW 11/05/2018). A representative from Assured Partners was listed on the agenda to discuss the City’s workers compensation insurance plan renewal, but he was unable to make his presentation after being informed that the board does not involve itself in such decision making.
Mayor Hall explained that a committee of staff members is tasked with researching, reviewing, and deciding which vendors’ offers are best. According to Bob Hall, “we’re the board but we’re not the ones that sit down and look at the insurance and compare all the things with it.” Following the Mayor’s refusal to hear the agent’s renewal presentation, he welcomed another agent from a competing firm, who was not listed on the agenda, and the board listened to their presentation and ultimately approved their offer to take over the city’s workers compensation insurance.
I was present at this meeting, yet I cannot tell you which company actually offered the better deal since only one firm was allowed to present their offer.
In their determination to make over the image of our town, the current administration ignores our pleadings to be included in the process or to have access to information.
Last night I attended the Clark County Comprehensive Plan open house in Henryville. Although this plan does not involve incorporated areas of the county like Charlestown, I think it is important to stay informed about our sister communities. (A second session will be November 15th in New Washington and you can follow their Facebook page here: Clark County Comprehensive Plan) This interactive event is the first of three phases in which a planning commission is seeking feedback from Clark County residents about how they envision growth and development in the county in the next 20 years. Attendees were presented demographic information about our county and were invited to share their ideas about what should be preserved, celebrated, and built in the coming years. In the next two phases the commission will present a draft vision statement, objectives, goals, and action steps and check back in with residents one additional time before presenting their final recommendations. Their determination to involve citizens in this process was refreshing!
I learned that the company that is developing this plan for the county also did Charlestown’s Comprehensive Plan (available here: Charlestown’s Comprehensive Plan). I could not remember, however, being notified of a similar process in the development of our plan, so I asked a member if this three-step process represents their standard operating procedure. She said yes. When I asked why Charlestown only had one meeting, she told me that the City was in a hurry to move along and the company had to operate on a shortened timeline.
These two examples represent much of what is wrong with our city. We lack transparency. We lack an administration that demonstrates a desire to operate in partnership with citizens.
When changing the date of a holiday celebration for the entire town is more easily accomplished than informing citizens that public meetings have been called or cancelled or involving them in developing the vision of our community, it’s time for a change.
Transparency ensures that citizens have opportunities to be involved with the government of their city. It demonstrates a commitment to representation and removes feelings of deception.
Transparency is important and it’s in my plan.