Sunday, April 28, 2013

We need a corp of citizen activist

Last year I watched almost all of Mayor Dean's budget hearings. This year, with the Mayor pledging not to propose a property tax increase, I have been less inclined to watch each hearing.  I would hope that Council members are paying as much attention to government efficiency and are as conscience of looking for wasteful spending now as they are in a year with a proposed tax increase. Unfortunately, the way I view this is much the way I suspect the Council and others view it.  Departments get much less scrutiny in years in which there is not a proposed tax increase.  It seem human nature is such that attention wanes when there is not an immediate impact to ones own well being. We seem to care more about efficiency when if will effect us in the near term.

If anyone wants to watch the budget hearings they are readily available and easily accessible. It has never been easier to become a citizen activist, stay informed,  and get involved in local government.  The meetings of boards and commissions are often video taped and posted online and agendas and budgets and numerous documents are posted online. Sunshine laws and pubic information request rules make government operate in the open and make what they do be accessible to citizens. At many meetings, citizens can address the policy makers and most elected and appointed officials are approachable.

I encourage you to get involved.  We need a corp of citizen activist who will be government watchdogs. Ideally, it would be great if we had a lot of citizen activist who would divide up the task of keeping an eye on government. It would be great if citizen activist would pick a particular department, become an expert in that field and watch that department like a hawk.

With only one daily newspaper and fewer news reporters, we can not depend on the press to keep us informed the way we could when daily newspapers competed and when their were more reporters. While there is a lot of attention paid by political activist to what happens in Washington, their is less attention paid to what happens at the State level and even less attention paid to what happens at the local level, yet what happens at the local and state level may effect your life as much as what happens nationally. Crime rates, response time of your fire department, utility rates, quality of life, level of taxation, and quality of schools are primarily local issues.

The Mayor's budget hearings are online as well as Council meetings, School Board meetings and various other videos concerning local government. You can find them at this link: Metro Nashville Government Videos.

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