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Briefing the public on matters that matter.
Friday, March 15, 2013
The observation of Sunshine Week allows us to highlight some of the hurdles to an open, transparent government that is the hallmark of good government. It also affords the chance to recognize a government that has listened to our concerns and taken a leap into the sunlight.
Roanoke City Council deserves such recognition for moving its monthly briefings from a cramped basement room, which few observers could squeeze into, to its council chambers that welcomes with a comfortable seat those who trek to the Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building and also makes the meetings accessible to those at home or in the office.
During 2012, all council briefings were broadcast on RVTV and were catalogued and available through the city’s website. Council briefings are just as, if not more, important than formal meetings, since these are the times when members are provided with the details that inform their debate and their votes.
Over the years, we had prodded council to invite the public to witness these briefings. One excuse was that members liked the informality of gathering around a table because people will talk more candidly with them than when they are elevated on the dais. This obstacle was solved with the shuffling of chairs and tables.
And the move to council chambers also cleared the technology hurdle.
After realizing the benefits of having an informed public, council moved key briefings to its formal meetings when a larger audience tunes in. All of this has helped to better inform the people, not only as to how council votes, but why and what those votes mean in their lives.
Sharing of information with the largest audience possible is something other councils and boards of supervisors should strive to emulate.
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