Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two Requirements for a City of Integrity

If you believe, as we in The Other Dunwoody believe, that total transparency is a minimal requirement of good governance, then the very first thing the newly formed City of Dunwoody must do is establish a virtual City Library. This should be an online repository hosting all meeting notices, agendas, minutes, videos of all council meetings, recordings of conference calls, ordinances, proposed and signed contracts, proposed and approved budgets--in fact, every bit of information used or created by this city, except personal information of employees. And neither elected officials nor contractors are employees.

In a well managed city where no less than total transparency is acceptable, there is no need for open records requests because all records are already open and available online. If there needs to be a law to make this happen, then perhaps the first ordinance passed should include detailed requirements for maintaining transparency and penalties for failure to do so.

We know this can be done. How? First, other organizations and municipalities do it. Second, Citizens for Dunwoody, Dunwoody Yes!, and Dunwoody Candidate have demonstrated an amazing ability to put up (and take down) a web site when it suits their needs. Many of these same folks are now elected officials and it is high time for them to demonstrate they can put up a web site that suits the citizens needs--both in content and timeliness.

The second requirement can only be met by the private sector. Dunwoody needs a legitimate Fourth Estate rather than the fan magazines currently available. To be fair, Dunwoody is served by two weekly newspapers, one dedicated solely to Dunwoody and the other covering much of DeKalb as well. But these are free weeklies depending on ad revenue to survive and this business model will not support the kind of investigative reporting Dunwoody deserves. The kind that might result in controversy that negatively impacts ad revenues.

While neither of the current offerings suffice, Dunwoody must create a Press able to endure the consequences of taking principled stands, of demanding to look at what someone wants hidden. The citizens of Dunwoody must demonstrate a willingness to support this Press, or the Press must adapt to new technologies and business models to maintain viability.

To excel, Dunwoody needs transparency in government and a strong press to ensure transparency is maintained.

All of Dunwoody deserves no less than excellence.