Put transparency on council agenda

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Feb 06, 2020

A proposal to delay the public release of City Council agenda items feels like a step in the wrong direction.

The Rockland City Council is considering a measure that would prevent the public from seeing agenda items until closer to their meeting date.

The deadline for councilors to submit items to the city clerk's office for Monday meetings has been Wednesday at noon.

Under Maine’s Freedom of Access Law, once those items are submitted to the clerk, they are public documents and are available for public inspection. The council is contemplating a policy that could violate state law.

In part, this is a solution in search of a problem. Councilors who support the measure say they are receiving calls about agenda items before they have even seen them. Weighed against a decrease in public access to government information, this seems like a minor inconvenience at most.

In addition, there is nothing to stop city councilors from being diligent in finding out the agenda items earlier in the week, at the same time that The Courier-Gazette has been inspecting them.

Releasing this information provides more notice to the community about issues they care about, and increases participation in city government. Residents interested in an issue that is going to be on the agenda can plan to attend the upcoming meeting and even speak to that issue.

It might seem at first reading to be more convenient for city councilors to keep the public at bay until something is a done deal, or closer to the end of the process, but the sooner the council hears about a significant concern in the community, the better. In some cases, this could even save them work.

Regardless of how attractive this measure is to the council, it is not allowed under law anyway. They can attempt to argue these are working documents, but that only applies to Legislative writings at the state level, and they can play games saying to those who make requests under the Freedom of Access law that they have five working days to provide the documents.

It is still a losing proposition because those kinds of things could hurt the public’s trust.

We urge the council to vote down this measure.

A hero in our midst

Bravo to Sgt. Arthur Smith of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Here is an officer who was willing to jump into Crawford Pond in the dead of winter to rescue two men who had fallen through the ice.

This is the very definition of protecting and serving the community. It was an extremely dangerous situation that required tremendous courage.

This dramatic demonstration of heroism should also serve as a reminder of the many ways our local law enforcement officers throughout the Midcoast put themselves at risk every day and devote themselves to the task of keeping us our communities safe.

We are very fortunate to have these dedicated public servants.

Thank you for going above and beyond to Sgt. Smith and all of the officers like him.

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Comments (4)
Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Feb 07, 2020 15:00

ha ha ha.  I want to be joined by people who care about our community and want to know whats going on.

No way would I run for any office, much too hard, way too much work. how 'bout you?

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Feb 07, 2020 12:51

Me Forma.....are you campaigning for office?

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Feb 07, 2020 09:37

Excellent Courier editorial. City council claims transparency and then blocks public involvement. Drain the swamp.

Posted by: Ananur Forma | Feb 06, 2020 16:00

Very important to me to know the agenda ahead of time to plan my schedule. Thank you for this editorial. In fact I would be happy to see more people in attendance.

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