Transparency in government is important and should be applied across the board. Public meetings and Sunshine laws exist to help make governmental processes more open to citizens.
As demonstrated in recent weeks, when people are passionate about an issue, they show up. Hundreds filled the Franklin County Board of Supervisors meetings to both express views and hear discussion on the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution. Shortly following sharing these news stories on social media, there were comments made regarding an interest in seeing that kind of turnout for other hot-button issues such as education.
That responsibility falls to residents to make time to attend meetings and learn about the issues at hand. However, there are things local government can do to help, such as having more than one meeting per month, so not all business has to be crammed into one day.
Franklin County Blackwater District Supervisor Cline Brubaker summed it up in October: “Residents need to become more involved in the meetings and workshops to be better informed.”
Having a public information officer would be beneficial, too. Ronald Mitchell Jr. said during his campaign for supervisor that this would be a priority for him if elected.
“I would like to see the county have a public information officer so we can educate our citizens more on what is going on in the county, use email, group texts, Facebook , Twitter, and put all county matters in the newspaper, our citizens deserve to have all information at their fingertips,” Mitchell told The Franklin News-Post in October.
John Hinkell, who ran for the Union Hall seat in November, but lost, indicated a need for more transparency from the board of supervisors.
“The Board needs to create an environment where we consider public input respectfully and needs to establish, and honor, a policy for public comment,” Hinkell said. “No decision made by the Board should be a foregone conclusion … Transparency means, in part, explaining the Board’s rationale for decisions. Elected officials should not make decisions in a vacuum. I will work with my fellow Supervisors to communicate how we have considered public input, weighed pros and cons, and arrived at decisions. The public expects us to think carefully and thoughtfully. We need to show them we are doing that.”
A PIO for the county could not only help the board communicate with residents and media more effectively, but also could positively impact county departments. As the Franklin County Broadband Authority works to improve internet access across the county, a PIO could help inform citizens of those efforts. The sheriff’s office would also benefit from a PIO to help educate and inform citizens on criminal activity and ways to be safer in their communities.
Finance is another area of transparency. Newly elected Gills Creek supervisor Lorie Smith said she hopes to integrate a budget review team in the near future.
There are a myriad of ways that Franklin County residents and the government can work together in the coming year to ensure transparency for all.