I believe that 2009 will be looked back on as a great year for the cause of transparent, open, honest and accountable government.
Here’s why: People have to recognize there’s a problem before they are inspired to work for needed reforms.
Take Jackson decides not to post minutes on Web. That’s an article about how Jackson Township, in Pennsylvania, has unanimously rescinded a previously approved motion to begin putting approved minutes on the township Web site.
The board has determined that they can’t “track all requests for public documents” such as the minutes if the minutes are freely available on their website.
Board Chairman Dean Moyer, in a story in the Lebanon Daily News, opines:
Moyer said he believes the reason the Right-to-Know Law is even an issue is because newspapers print things, then the public misconstrues them and then there are questions.
Moyer asked the audience if the township is really being run that badly that they need to request public documents. He then said that it is like his mother used to say that sometimes the less you know, the better off you are.
According to Don Tapscott in The Rise of The Net Generation, there’s an increasing expectation, especially among young people, that their world should enshrine eight normative values, including this one:
- They learn to be skeptical, to scrutinize what they see and read in the media, including the Internet.
People like this, who expect to be able to scrutinize the claims made by others, are going to expect quick access to the information they need in order to scrutinize claims. The idea that a local unit of government is going out of its way to make that harder will confound their expectations and its something they will naturally respond to with a reforming impulse.
I believe most people, regardless of age, would be strongly surprised to find out just how hard it can be to crank basic information that is legally supposed to be readily available out of a local unit of government.
2009 is one of the first years where we will see more of a clash between reality and the reasonable expectations of ordinary citizens. That’s what will lead to longer-term reforms.