Guest Column: Government transparency

By Logan Hill

Special to the Herald Times

RBC | During election years we always hear opposition or reform candidates calling for “transparency.” Why is this always a common theme? It seems like no matter which party or candidate is holding an office, the person running against them is begging for more transparency. We are all aware sitting politicians tend to use shenanigans such as back room deals, midnight votes and last second releases to keep their cards close to their chest in order to increase their political capital, all at the expense of the people.

Sometimes the ploys aren’t even that complicated and are right out in the open. Administrative politicians, such as county commissioners and various board members, like to use a “consent agenda” at the beginning of each public meeting. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, these are supposed to be simple and routine motions such as approval of the agenda and minutes. However, it is important to study carefully the contents of these supposedly routine motions. Increasingly, you will find large ticket items tucked in to pass without having public discussion on them. When public discussion isn’t allowed on a topic, the powers that be won’t be threatened with questions and dissent and the meeting will move quickly.

Prior to the passage of Obamacare, Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously said,  “We’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in it.” Do the politicians even know what it is they are voting on? Perhaps the answer lies in the government employees and bureaucrats who are constructing the motions to be voted on. In our most recent 2016 county commissioner election, one of the winning candidates ran on being more fiscally responsible, with specific complaints on how the consent agenda was being handled. Here we are two years later with a longer consent agenda than ever before, which often includes more non-routine items than ever. Generally, I believe the items on the docket are condensed into a single consent agenda by those setting the agenda, and they do this in the name of speed. While not necessarily a nefarious practice, this does have the effect of losing transparency.

On the national stage, politicians clearly don’t have a wish to keep the public any more informed than they currently are, even those running on “reform” platforms. They simply wish to be the people behind the curtain. There have been extremely few candidates for any office who have truly worked to open books and expose the corruption within. The great Republican Statesmen like Congressman Ron Paul, Senator Barry Goldwater, President Calvin Coolidge and Congressman Thomas Massie are a few of the notable exceptions. Ron Paul in particular spent his career exposing corruption and as a result was sidelined for the majority of his long tenure in the House.

What can you do to help keep these politicians more honest? Ask questions and read. If you are a member of the public read the Herald Times, read the Daily Sentinel, read the Land Use Regulations and the contracts that are part of the day to day work of your representatives. If you are a candidate for office read “The Conscience of a Conservative” by Barry Goldwater, read “Liberty Defined” by Ron Paul. Most of all show up, ask questions, and keep an eye out for shenanigans that get in the way of transparency.

Logan Hill is the chairman of the Rio Blanco County Republicans.