Well it’s been a while since we’ve said much. Rest assured we have been hard at work collecting some interesting data through public records requests. You may recall that the last time we approached the Mayor and the City Council and asked for increased transparency we were told that the city was already “transparent enough” and that the council had decided not to invest in financial transparency software that would provide information to the citizens that they have a right to access. Instead they said that anyone needing information should “just ask” and of course pay up.
We took them up on their offer. We have asked for several pieces of information in multiple requests. In every case it has taken 3-4 weeks for them to produce the information we asked for and they have charged us for the information each time. The information we have asked for is easily produced by the software the city uses. The software will also easily generate the files in Excel format. So, what we have been asking for would normally not require 3-4 weeks of research; nor would it require enough work to justify the charges we have incurred.
Instead of our city’s politicians agreeing to invest a small amount of money to help make this information easily and freely available to all citizens, they have chosen to require us to jump through hoops to get the information and make us pay for it. Furthermore, this is actually more disruptive and costly to the city since we have to make repeated requests for the information we are looking for.
Since we began our efforts last year to highlight the need for increased transparency in our city government, at least one astute citizen (not affiliated with Take Back Enterprise) has taken it upon himself to do some research using the information that is available online. In the graphic below you can see the expenditures and revenues generated by our Civic Center. You will also see some request for capital expenditures at the Civic Center.
It is interesting to note that they are willing to invest over $25,000 in a facility that lost $240,000 in 2015 before any depreciation and interest expense is accounted for. If they are so willing to spend that kind of money there, why won’t they invest the money in financial transparency software? Why do they want to make us work so hard for information that is ours to begin with? Is there something to hide?
The information this citizen, Derek, used to generate the above graphic was found in the proposed 2016 budget that was posted on the city’s website at our request. Our push for increased transparency has allowed citizens like Derek to access more information than they have been able to before. This is just scratching the surface of what true Open Government is. The more information our citizens have access to the better able they are to hold our elected politicians accountable for the decisions they make.
There is no reason to stop here though. In the coming weeks we will be telling you more about what we have discovered in our research and records requests.
We also visited the recent council meeting and addressed the City Council and Mayor to share with them our frustration on the difficulties they are causing in our efforts to simply provide information to the citizens of Enterprise that they deserve to have.
Take Back Enterprise is committed to bringing Open Government to the City of Enterprise. We will continue to work hard to accomplish this. We would like to ask everyone that supports this effort to get the word out and to let your Councilman and the Mayor know how disappointed you are with their efforts to slow down progress in our city.