Transparency was a popular theme at Minot’s recent meet the candidates forums. But when the 14th is behind us, we all need to do a better job of holding elected officials accountable to the task. To put it simply, the City is clearing the low bar when it comes to transparency. But in a town as distrustful of leadership as Minot is, the low bar isn’t good enough. We’re going to have to start exceeding expectations.
To make my point, here are a couple of recent examples:
Zoning & Planning Steering Committee: The City’s Zoning and Planning Steering Committee has been meeting recently to talk about the City’s sign laws. I sat in on a meeting on the 20th of May that lasted 3.5 hours. It was a refreshing experience because I finally saw a committee doing the hard work. Minds weren’t made up before calling the meeting to order. But unfortunately, I had to be tipped off to the fact the meeting was even taking place because nowhere on the City’s website was there any evidence that it was happening.
And in case you’re interested, this coming Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. there’s yet another meeting of the Steering Committee for Zoning and Planning. And yet again, it’s not noticed anywhere on the City’s website.
We spent a lot of money on our new website, and we’re still driving it in first gear. It’s time to get every meeting noticed on our own property, even for those committees that only meet once in a while.
19.4 Million for CDM Smith? Rolling through the Finance Committee this week was the recommendation that the City enter into a not-to-exceed contract with CDM Smith for $19.3 million. Whoa? That’s a lot of money. It represents approximately 10% of the total cost of the City’s disaster resilience efforts. The contract is for administrative and project completion services.
And unfortunately for those of us out here in the public, the document that outlines the scope of that work was not available electronically. Yes, it was available. We cleared the low bar — if you wanted to see it, you could have stopped in at the City’s Finance Department and viewed a hard copy. But is that good enough?
The result, we as a community are being asked to give carte blanche approval to spend up to $19.3 million, and we didn’t make the document that outlines that spending available online? This is not how we build trust.
And Still No Streaming Meetings? In the year 2016, the City of Minot has to be one of the last places in America that still hasn’t figured out how to live stream a civic meeting. I’ve heard for years from City officials that this is in the works. But we’ve reached the point where talk is cheap. It’s time to get this done. Grand Forks did this 15 years ago. In Minot, we’re still making excuses.