What is so fascinating is that in 2018 it is so easy and relatively painless for local governments to be transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. For example, take my recent investigation into the expense reports and credit card statements of each Apple Valley Council member.
While Assistant Town Clerk Amber Jones and other town employees have been very helpful and are getting better at being more responsive to my public information requests, it is still rather tedious and time consuming to get all the information I requested. The documents are then sent to me via email PDF attachments or through links to documents hosted online.
Why can’t the Apple Valley Town Council pass an ordinance requiring all of their credit card and expense reports — including employees — be posted online each quarter? Don’t those paying the bills have a right to see where their money is going? If expense reports can be scanned and sent to me electronically, they can be put up online for the entire community to see.
Politicians and elected officials often talk about the apathy of the American voter. They complain about the lack of voter turnout. It is a common complaint that never goes out of style. Sometimes it is said in exasperation or frustration. Other times, it is said in a more condescending “look down your nose” tone by politicians who think they are too good or smarter than the average person.
Look, I have run for office before. I know what it is like to lose a close election with more than 100,000 votes cast by just a couple thousand votes after being outspent by an opponent 10-1.
But, I believe that the reason there is so much apathy in government and elections is because most people think that nothing ever changes regardless of who they vote for. They feel disconnected from their government and do not trust leaders to do the right thing. There is a sense that their leaders don’t really care about the people, but are only in it to pad their pockets and reward their friends and campaign donors.
When they read that “Boeing” Barb Stanton has booked about two dozen flights since 2015 and that they have paid for her personal cell phone bill to the tune of $10,000 since 2011, what should they think? Are they wrong?
This is one of the reasons why I am such a big proponent of transparency in government. Without transparency, you can’t have accountability. Without accountability, you get malfeasance, fraud, corruption, or just plain incompetence.
In a past column, I said “good governance requires transparency” and I criticized fellow Review columnist Pat Orr who attempted to ridicule those of us who believe in this concept. He wrote that transparency is a “favorite and abused buzzword lately.”
Transparency isn’t a favorite buzzword abused by citizens, you know, the people who actually pay the bills to keep the lights on at Town Hall and provide monthly paychecks to the workers. It is, however, abused by do-nothing politicians across the country and especially the Apple Valley Town Council members he constantly cheerleads for in his columns.
The next time you hear any of your council members talking about transparency, accountability or voter apathy, ask them how come they won’t put their expense reports online if that is what they really believe.
Would Art Bishop use his town credit card to buy his wife’s airline tickets if he knew everyone would see it? Would all of these council members and staff go to the same “New Mayors and Council Members Academy” every year? I suspect not. Obviously, these expensive conferences have not helped any of the council members make sound financial decisions in the best interest of Apple Valley residents.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this year’s budget numbers.
If you have suggestions on subjects or comments please contact me at [email protected]
Source: Angela Valles, Apple Valley Review