You can listen to my public comment remarks (by telephone) in response to the Open Meetings Policy proposal presented by Patrick Conant & Code for Asheville at the Governance Committee. (Visit the Open Meetings Policy website to learn more, and join me in signing the petition!)
My prepared comment as written (delivery varied slightly):
Some people think democratic government is a “set it and forget it” deal: you vote for the people who you believe will represent your interests and values, and then you trust them to do just that. History (and recent history, at that) shows that this is not enough to guarantee good government. A healthy democracy depends upon an informed citizenry that can take timely action to participate in the processes of government.
A genuine democracy affords people ongoing access to the machinery of government: it includes the public in policy and lawmaking; it informs them about its processes; it welcomes and facilitates their participation; it documents and publishes its deliberations and decisions.
Without robust and easily accessible support for informed participation, there is no true democracy because citizens can neither be heard nor hold their elected officials and government employees accountable for their actions.
Opaque government—no matter how well-meaning or benevolent—is tyranny. It arrogates to itself power that belongs in the hands of the electorate. It raises itself above the oversight of the people it is meant to serve. And it perpetuates the disempowerment of the most disadvantaged and excluded in our community.
A democratic government does the public’s work in public. It welcomes the eyes of the people on its operations. It shows its work; it monitors and shares the outcomes of its actions. A democratic government knows that sunshine is the best disinfectant, and that earned trust in its institutions is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.
I urge this committee to recommend — and city council to adopt and implement — a robust Open Meetings Policy, like the one proposed today by Mr. Conant and Code for Asheville.