Monday, December 29, 2008

My questions for the applicants (and Russ Lehman's response)

I emailed a couple of questions to four applicants for the open county commission seat I'm considering right now (Russ Lehman, Karen Valenzula, Jeff Dickison and Walt Jorgenson).

They were about the possibility of home rule and how they feel about the county's frightfully bad website and about blogging as an elected (or appointed in this case) official.

Russ Lehman got back to me pretty quick:

1) Yes, the home rule process, as I understand it, can yield some important results – not the least of which is an important discussion on issues facing this county in the 21st century. I do believe that serious discussion, at least, ought to occur about a BOCC with “reduced” powers and an administration with “increased” powers – better to enable the citizen’s work to be done efficiently and effectively. The fear of a wide open, no holds barred home rule process should not limit our desire and willingness to have the people of this county talk about, and possibility make the appropriate changes on, the critical issues facing us.

2) The website is not currently the tool/mechanism for nurturing Democracy and engaging and informing our citizens that it must be. Of course I would have that be a priority (a relatively small and simple task in the grand scheme of things) with an individual(s) tasked with bringing the website up to date and user friendly ASAP.

As regards blogging, I have mixed feelings about it. To the extent that it is a technologically current way to correspond with constituents, than great. To the extent that becomes a way around the OPMA by in any way “doing business” outside the public domain than I am not in favor of it.
His response on blogging, especially citing the Open Public Meetings Act is interesting, if not troubling. Some response from other elected officials on why they haven't pursued blogging includes fear of violating the OPMA. In my short research, its the second most cited response to "what, don't you think I'm busy enough?"

I'm going to have to start thinking harder and longer about the OMPA and blogging.


Anonymous said...

A blog is inherently advertised, open and public. So how can it possibly violate the public meetings act?

We have mayors, governors, legislators and other elected officials blogging, why not our county commissioners?

Emmett said...

I think the rub is, according the OMPA, is that a blog might not be an advertised as business meeting. If a city council wants to get together for business, they have certain publicity requirements they need to fulfill.