Transparency in government

Good governance begins with transparency. The City of Parkersburg deserves credit for the job they do in advance of any city council or committee meeting. Parkersburg releases the full agenda with all supporting documents to the public and news media five days before any meeting. This gives the public ample time to read the ordinances and resolutions in full, as well as review the supporting documents. The public is more informed and able to address concerns or questions with their council members prior to the meetings.

The City of Vienna, however, does the opposite. Not only does the administration refuse to release documents to the public prior to the meetings, it describes agenda items so vaguely one must wonder if obfuscation is intentional. Two recent agenda items, the Tax Increment Financing or TIF for the Grand Central Mall, and the deannexation of property from Vienna belonging to a council member are such examples. Both were listed on the agenda but not descriptively enough to adequately put the public on notice as to the matter being discussed.

Several residents, including myself, have asked for agenda documents prior to the meetings and those requests have been met with resistance from the city. The city responded by requiring a Freedom of Information Act or FIOA to be officially filed in order to receive any documents regarding city council agenda items! It is huge waste of time and money to file a FOIA in order to receive information that can and should be made available to the public just as it is in Parkersburg. Recently, even a Vienna city councilman had to file a FOIA to receive information regarding the agenda item on the Johns Manville Project.

This lock down of information is not acceptable. A city is stronger when the citizens are involved in the community. If Vienna has nothing to hide, they should stop acting as if they do. Being transparent while doing the people’s business would go a long way to building trust with the community. Instead, the administration has chosen to lock horns with folks seeking information regarding the city in which they live. This strategy only breeds distrust of our city officials and is completely unnecessary.

Kim Williams



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