The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 16, 2014

Our View: Pledge must be priority

— Mike Seibert, after being elected Joplin’s mayor on Monday, immediately pledged that the city will be operating with transparency.

It goes without saying that a lack of openness in city government has created a firestorm at Joplin City Hall and has created distrust and a lack of public confidence.

We also know transparency doesn’t happen automatically, although that should always be the outcome.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your pledge. Since you mentioned it, here are some ways to let some sun shine in on city government:

• Ask the Missouri Municipal League or the Missouri attorney general to hold a seminar for council members and staff on the open-meeting and open-record laws. You can make this seminar an expansive one by inviting other municipal government representatives to attend. The laws change from year to year, and refresher courses will help even the most veteran staff members.

• Do away with those work sessions that take place before the regular council meetings. Calling them “work sessions” sends the signal that they are meant for council members only, even though they are open to the public. They begin at 5:15 p.m. and are held in a small room. That tells members of the public they aren’t welcome. Begin all meetings at 6 p.m. in regular council chambers. And hope for a full house. That means the public is engaged.

• Make it plain that decisions and discussions are to be made in council chambers. Private conversations on the phone and in coffee shops rob the residents of the opportunity to watch their government at work.

Ultimately, one person alone can’t pledge transparency and expect that it will happen. The best recipe for transparency is an involved public that demands to be a part of its city government and a council that’s listening.

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