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BRAD STAMAN: Need for transparency

BRAD STAMAN: Need for transparency

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You would think transparency with those paying your salary, the ones you work for, would be normal practice, however, too often with elected officials it is not.

Instead of openness there is a desire to slip behind closed doors and practice old school Chicago politics. Remove the voter, the taxpayer, and speed up the process with a few back room deals.

Whether it's the building of a road or the selection of a new council member, doing it all in a meeting with voters attending could throw a monkey wrench into everything. However, that is how democracy is supposed to work.

Without transparency you have communism, totalitarianism. That is not America; instead we are a government "by the people and for the people." Open so all have the ability to have a voice in the direction their government is going.

Politicians who would rather keep the public in the dark should not be kept in office. Keeping the voter and taxpayer out of the discussion is disrespectful to the men and women who voted for them. It is an arrogate politician saying, loud and clear, "I am smarter than you and I don't care what you think. Just shout up and blindly follow."

This type of leadership also violates the Open Meetings Acts.

"The Nebraska Open Meetings Act guarantees that every meeting of a public body shall be open to the public in order that citizens may exercise their democratic privilege of attending and speaking at meetings of public bodies," is how ago.nebraska.gov describes the outline of the act. You can read more about the act on that website.

This law is not just for the media, it is for all citizens. It is to help assure at least some transparency in our government, including local government. It applies to our local school boards, county commissions, city councils, and other governing boards.

As a newspaper, we have called out boards for stepping into the back rooms, even if they don't see it that way.

We recently called into question the use of emails by the Scotts Bluff County Commissioners in regard to decisions they made in relationship to the work done on the Stegall Road project.

We were also criticized for staying on course when the Scottsbluff City Council played word games to justify slipping into executive session (behind closed doors) to interview the final pool of candidates for its new city manager. The pool was down to five candidates. According to the city's interim manager at the time they selected five to avoid releasing names and resumes calling them "semifinalists" and not finalists. They used the word game to hide behind closed doors.

As the council narrows down their selection for a new city council member, we planned on keeping an eye on the process to make sure everything is done out in the open. We understand the council already interviewed five “finalists,” who weren’t announced to the public, out of 11 people who had submitted their names to be considered. The council plans to vote on the “mayor’s recommendation” during Tuesday’s meeting on a person to fill the seat.

If you are a citizen of Scottsbluff you had a right to know who the finalists are and have an opportunity to let the council hear your thoughts on who you think they should select. This person will represent you.

It’s an opportunity afforded for you when you vote on candidates in an election. Why should it be any different when a vacancy exists and a person, who did not run in an election for whatever reason, is appointed to a seat.

You might think it is no big deal. How commissioners discuss and make road decisions, how a city manager is selected or a new council member is chosen, who cares?

You should.

If our local leaders are making these decisions behind your back, what else might they be doing? And if you close your eyes now, what might you find down the road when you open your eyes and find a community not to your liking?

It is vitally important for all of us, the "people," to demand transparency from all our elected officials and those they hire. Anything less should cost officials our vote.

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