How did a particular councillor vote on the last city budget?
How did they vote on the Black Street upgrade? Or on any number of other city issues?
Bet you don’t know.
In fact, the politicians probably can’t remember themselves.
And, for a voter, that’s a problem.
Because when some profound good is done in Whitehorse, the one cranky politician who tried to kibosh the initiative could claim credit two years later, and you’d never know it.
And, of course, the flip side is true.
When things go horribly south, like, for instance, during the last budget process, politicians could scatter, claiming they never supported the document.
Again, you would never know if that was true.
That seems like it might create an accountability deficit during the next election.
Let’s go back to the budget for a minute. You might remember it. Taxes were hiked to fatten an already bloated budget, but politicians and city officials called it impossibly lean. And the whole package was rammed through quickly while the community called for an examination and possible cuts.
Who voted for it? Who voted against it?
Can’t remember, can you? And there’s no place to check.
And then, after losing a wrongheaded pay-equity dispute (do you know who supported that?), the politicians scrounged up $1.1 million from an impossibly tight budget – easy peasy. They just suspended a couple of playgrounds and pulled from reserves. Voila, a pile of cash to cover its goof.
How did the councillors vote on this? Again, there’s no record.
Enter Betty Irwin.
The councillor wants council’s votes recorded.
Apparently, she’s proud of her voting record. She wants voters to know how she has tackled the many issues that have crossed her desk over the last couple of years.
Ranj Pillai is also on board.
The rest don’t seem as interested.
For example, Mayor Bev Buckway can’t see the point.
Apparently, she wants a homogeneous council – where individuals are indistinguishable from the whole.
In that case, one wonders why Whitehorse council holds public votes at all.
It would be far more efficient if Buckway simply polled her council at an in-camera meeting before the public show.
Then she, herself, could simply deliver a “Yay” or “Nay” to every agenda item, perhaps with a terse explanation why. That would be simple and efficient.
Of course, it might come across as a little imperious.
As Buckway once campaigned on a platform of improved communication, we’re sure that’s not what she wants.
These days, there is no excuse for not providing the voting public with more information.
Votes should be recorded, first with the live video camera. Later through a post on the city’s website.
Tapes and transcripts and agendas from the weekly council meetings should also be posted online quickly.
The public may not comb through the material, as administrative services director Robert Fendrick said recently.
But that’s not really the point.
We might find it useful. And currently we can’t get the information at all.
That’s a problem, but it’s an easy one to fix.
Irwin wants it done.
As citizens, we should support her.
After all, the more we know about how our civic leaders conduct business, the better off we are.
There’s no compelling reason to suppress the information, unless you’ve got something to hide.