Thursday, May 18, 2006

Getting Metro Council to Open Up

We've had to suffer through the Council's proverbial you-can-kiss-our-ass stance toward the idea of public disclosure of the people's business over and over and over and over and over again. The latest Kay Brooks episode continues to illustrate that the bulking hulk of them don't seem to be willing to buy into the state's open meeting laws. E-mails get passed, phone calls get made, school board candidates get coached on the sidelines. Oh, and these very plain words of the state's sunshine act get ignored:
No ... chance meetings, informal assemblages, or electronic communication shall be used to decide or deliberate public business in circumvention of the spirit [of this law].
Instead, circumventing and planning vote results on the sly seems to be as common among the cat herd as a Skoal ring is on a shit-kicker's hip pocket.

Something needs to be done to shake up this Council and make it accountable. If they are going to expect Nashvillians to kiss their ass on disclosure, then they are going to have to show their ass more consistently in public, rather than hiding behind excuses like "I'm not trading votes" (as if that's any consolation). In the Kay Brooks episode, the public was denied the opportunity for feedback as Council member Michael Craddock put together his 18 votes and 1 Amanda-McClendon abstention apparently via media other than Council Chambers and public hearings. The people were never given the option to authorize Kay Brooks' appointment. Deals just got done, and we will likely never know how so.

The Metro Council dysfunction must stop. We've got a disclosure law that basically seems to have no teeth, unless enough District 5 residents get up enough gumption and vigor to challenge Michael Craddock and the 17 other Yes-men in a court of law. That might help resolve the Kay Brooks case, but what about the next one that comes down the pike, and the one after that? It seems to me that we need something more comprehensive to hold the Council's feet to the fire on holding open meetings.

We need to figure out a way to organize neighborhood groups to place a ballot initiative that would propose re-writing the Metro Charter to require our local elected officials to document all of their off-of-microphone conversations and phone calls, as well as archive their e-mails on public business for public review at a later date. A similar ballot initiative was just defeated in Austin, Texas, but I don't know to what degree Austinians were pissed off by their leadership's follies. I think that it would be worth a try here, given the obvious smug arrogance of some in Metro Council. If nothing else the prospect might adjust their attitudes to fly right as they start hatching these schemes.

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