We hear this word thrown around by a lot of candidates. It is a core necessity for a government to function. Without transparency, we lack feedback. Without feedback from the general population, we become governed by a small number of folks with the ability to access information not shown to the general public.
That is not the purpose of having leadership. The decision makers are not supposed to rely on limited, controlled input before making important decisions that only benefit developers who make campaign donations. That is not how any of this is supposed to work. While I can not make it illegal for developers to donate money to their favorite politicians, I can definitely increase the transparency in the Union County.
I have been attending the County Commissioner meetings for the last few months to get caught up on any issues that may be falling through the cracks. I have learned a thing or two that I would like to share with you:
- Let us rip this Band-Aid right off. I would have voted the same as every current commissioner on every issue that they have voted on except for one. And that one vote was different for each commissioner. Yup! Only one difference. So far, the votes have been clear-cut services that everyone will vote for. Unfortunately, I see a few issues coming up that I would think differently on. I will not vote for tax increases that hurt the average citizen. Even renters suffer when the commissioners up the property taxes like they did in 2021. I also have no intention of shorting the schools on funding ever again. Teachers, students, and the community deserve better. No matter how many of these votes we all would vote the same way, there will be issues where we differ, and those issues will have huge ramifications for the people of Union County.
- The commissioners appear to be making snap decisions. That is not entirely true. They have access to the data and issues being presented to them well ahead of time and can spend time researching pertinent information to make an informed decision.
- Nobody attends these meetings. Although they are streamed on YouTube, you can not see the commissioners and therefore do not know who is speaking and which way each member is voting. It is hard for citizens to know what is happening when leaders do not go the extra mile to get the information out to as many people as possible.
So, let us get back to my point about transparency. The current commissioners can claim transparency because they have the meetings, as required, in a public setting every two weeks. They follow the procedures of releasing the agenda ahead of time for the public to review. There is a sign-up sheet outside the meeting for folks who want to talk about…well, just about anything.
But this is not my kind of transparency. Let me tell you how I plan to be transparent.
First, I will go out into the community. Saying my door is always open is not much of an invitation if you do not know where my door is or that it even exists. I will be offering to come to events and private get-togethers to brief citizens on what is happening. Not waiting for an invitation, offering! I will contact your local coin collectors club to see if they want an update on what is happening. I will show up at the Union County Democratic Party meetings and the Union County Republican Party meetings. And both briefings will be the same! I will talk about the issues, where I stand, where others stand, and why I believe my way forward may be the better way. If that is not enough, I will invite the other commissioners to come and speak from their viewpoints also. Not a debate, but an open exchange of ideas so that the public will be fully informed.
Secondly, every issue will be explained in plain language. The issue, the behind-the-scenes conversations, the various research methods, and the pros and cons will be available to every citizen. Not just upon request, but publicly published on social media, in newspapers, and even flyers to sit in local businesses. Citizen involvement is the only way to make sure that deals are not made behind closed doors.
Lastly, and most controversially, you can change my mind. That is right! I have my core set of unwavering principles, but not every issue comes down to a simple right versus. wrong. While I look forward to fighting for issues, we all agree on like stopping tax increases and fixing the pothole-filled roads, there are many issues that public opinion could affect. If you disagreed with one of the county commissioners right now, do you think they would receive your input, mull it over, and be open to changing their minds? With my leadership, that will not even be a question. It can happen. Public input is so important to make sure our county works for everybody.
What does not work for the citizens? Private meetings and donations from developers. The same folks have been in charge for years, if not decades, and people are still complaining about over-development and rising taxes. I have heard you. The current leadership has not. Tell folks that you want a change in Union County.