Transparent?

Jan 23 • Feature Story, ViewpointNo Comments on Transparent?

In its CK Plan 2035, Chatham-Kent officials state that one of three critical success factors is an “open, transparent and effectively governed” municipality.

The other two factors are financial sustainability – paying down debt, a balanced budget and reserve funds, and resiliency – the ability to respond to emerging strategic priorities and adapt to change.

Fantastic. It sounds great. The fact the municipality knows being open and transparent is a critical success factor is a huge step in the right direction. The fact they still aren’t walking the walk is of concern, however.

Councillors Aaron Hall and Carmen McGregor are doing an amazing job in Wallaceburg, meeting with citizens in a local coffee shop to talk about what is coming up on the council agenda. Hall tweets out all the info on the agenda with links for people wanting to take a look at attached reports. That is open and transparent.

Mayor Darrin Canniff is using social media to communicate issues like road closures, upcoming events and his up-to-the-minute whereabouts. That is open and transparent.

South Kent Coun. Trevor Thompson has been using social media for years to update folks on what is going on “around the horseshoe.” Again, open.

Not having the base budget details for the public to look at, including no info on the police budget at all, before the public consultations – not so much.

Finance staffers Mike Turner and Gord Quinton did a great job of explaining budget process and terminology during the draft budget presentation, but what was lacking were the actual spending details. The base budget is presented to council and the public as a fait accompli, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the details of that spending to understand the process better.

Issues that council knows will be of great interest to the public – such as salary increases for council –should be a no-brainer sent out ahead of time. The same with detailed spending rationale when management is presenting different options to council on capital projects.

The journey is sometimes just as important as the destination.

Management should not be deciding what the public should and shouldn’t know about when it comes to spending. If staff investigated and crunched numbers, all those figures should be available with no extra work needed.

Don’t just say you are open and transparent; actually BE open and transparent.

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