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Essentials for Public Trust in Government: Communication, Transparency, and Accountability 

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By Barbara Murphy-Leary 

Are you frustrated with the lack of government communication, transparency, and accountability? You should be.

When meeting agendas and minutes get posted late, video recordings are inaudible, data on websites can’t be found or questions by citizens go unresolved, one must wonder why. Is the practice of keeping the community in the dark calculated or just poor management? It seems to be an issue that is systemic and has been a problem for many years. The result of this dysfunction is that it will almost always lead to rumor, speculation and the worst possible outcome, apathy. 

To be clear, communication is only complete when the message has been understood. Transparency is the quality that makes actions obvious for understanding motives. And accountability is taking ownership of what happens because of your choices and conduct. In governing, these elements are essential for public trust. Our leaders need to do better. We have the right to ask and the right to know about the issues that impact us.

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We can’t continue to have inadequate informational resources and ask the same questions year after year. It is unacceptable.

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What can we do? Voting is a first step. But beyond the ballot box, we need to act and let our voices be heard.  We can write letters to news outlet editors and post thoughts to social media pages, but for honest direct communication, the greatest impact is a face-to-face encounter. Attending government meetings is a strong reminder to politicians that their constituents are watching and concerned with community affairs. By asking questions in an open forum, it is the most transparent way to get a subject and the answers on the record for accountability. We need to follow-up, and not give up.

We should have websites that are up to date and easy to navigate. We should be able to ask and get real answers in an environment that encourages participation. Our officials should be proactively communicating so that we can be informed and feel part of the process. 

The frustration is real. Remember the old saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We can’t continue to have inadequate informational resources and ask the same questions year after year. It is unacceptable. It is time for our governing bodies to correct their behavior and for the public to demand it.

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