Off The Press
May 28, 2013
By Peter Clark
I’m glad to help make government transparent
I went to a discussion dinner recently that focused on civil behavior and the responsibility of government. I am excited. One of the topics that arose centered on the transparency of government and it made me romanticize all over again the profession of journalism and what I feel it gives to the world.
The other diners had varying opinions regarding this, but most contended that government should be more open for the citizens it serves.
Leaving aside state and federal governments, I will say that local governments that I have covered, included my short time here in Issaquah, have been exceedingly transparent. In this city’s new website, they appear to painstakingly put in most every piece of paper that is offered to the mayor, the council or different departments. Likewise, they offered limited public comments on many issues and hold public hearings on the most important, such as on the Klahanie potential annexation area.
However, through all of a local government’s attempts to keep the public informed, one thing becomes clear: government at its core is a cluttered, long-winded, complicated and often-times boring mess.
Sure, an interested public could sort through the dense documents full of less-than-riveting legalese that record all of the meetings that lead up to a decision, but few have the dedication to devote so much time.
That’s where journalism enters. Hello journalism. Nice to see you.
It is my job to attend such meetings, read these documents, ask questions and make sure I understand an issue in order to translate it to a busy public. This is not a knock against people who fail to comb through government workings. It is rather a fact that we all have many other things that demand our time. I take the responsibility of divining the mysterious sanctum of bureaucratic facility extremely serious. I regard it as a duty to accurately report a transparent government and also ensure that transparency exists.
In the 1970s, a heyday of journalism that exposed the crimes of the Nixon presidency, my profession was thought of as a fourth branch of government. As the congress, judiciary and executive are meant to balance each other, journalism served as a check between the public and these three. I see the romanticism clearly, but that does not stop me from striving to serve that same kind of goal. While I’m optimistic about Issaquah’s attempts at transparency, vigilance is an inherent part of my job.
There is a caveat to me handling this for you fine people. I’m the strange sort of person who really enjoys these things. Meetings, minutia, mayoral elections, I’m your man.
I still have an enormous amount to learn about this community, but I am honored to scour boring documents in service to Issaquah. Just keep reading.