Saturday, March 19, 2016

If a tree falls in the forest..

This is Sunshine Week, a time set aside to celebrate and promote open government. Increasingly irrelevant newspapers also use the event for self-promotion, wasting precious space better used for serious reporting.

Lifting the veil on government operations helps citizens understand how things work, and decisions are made. The saying “sunshine is the best disinfectant” is often used to tout the benefits of transparency.

In Goochland, check registers for both county government and the schools have been on line for a few years. Most meetings are live streamed and recorded for future reference. Agendas, packets, minutes and related information are available on the county website for all to review. Documents including proposed, current, and past county budgets; the current comprehensive land use plan; and real estate information is also online. For those unable or unwilling to use the internet, most information is available in hard copy either at the Goochland Branch Library or administration building.

Does any of this matter if no one pays attention?

We have instant access to more information that at any time in history, but more people know details about the daily lives of Armenian celebrities than how their government operates. Too many people cast votes based on the recommendation of a hysterical website or Facebook page instead of doing their own investigation into the policies and beliefs of a given candidate.

Undoubtedly, more people, especially those born since America’s bicentennial, can name the teams involved in this week’s basketball tournaments but are clueless as to the identity of their senator, congressman, or heaven forbid, local supervisor. An indifferent citizenry creates a vacuum that invites mischief.

Locally, we have seen this in newcomers to the county who complained about “new” planned roads that have been “on the drawing board” for at least a decade. Long term county residents recently expressed surprise that the Tuckahoe Creek Service District extends north to the Hanover line. Didn’t they notice the turquoise pipes being put into the ground along Ashland Road about a decade ago?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? If no one pays attention to transparent government, is is really open? Bask in the sunshine of open government, ask questions, and be an informed citizen.

1 comment:

Pat said...

While I'm sure it's true that people don't pay as much attention as they should to the information that is available to them (I know I don't) - the very fact that it is "out there," I think, helps keep our representatives honest. It's sort of like body cameras on police.

Since Goochland has become so much more open and so much more information has become available, the level of discord and strife has dropped significantly from my perspective. Before the data was available, people just assumed they were being screwed, and knowing that everything isn't taking place in the dark, even if not reviewed by all that many, still provides a measure of comfort that if something bad is going on, someone who is paying attention will find it and bring it to the attention of the rest of us - and can provide real sources for the information. And thank you for being one of those people!