EDITORIAL: Transparency is key to the success of a community

Transparency in public associations creates an environment of trust. Read on in this week's Ponoka News editorial.

One has to hand it to the board of trustees with the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic (STAR) school division for reducing the number of its membership.

The plan is to reduce the trustees numbers from nine to seven by the next election, keeping in line with most school boards in Alberta, which sets up the board and administration quite well to deal with the change. Where STAR should be congratulated is in the transparent process coming to the decision.

With open meetings in all of its wards recently as well as a thorough explanation behind the decision, those concerned are at least able to get a reasonable explanation of why it happened.

Guess what though, the vote didn’t come without a fight with a 5-4 vote. It comes as no surprise that the areas where there are two trustees there was push back.

Drayton Valley, Leduc and Wetaskiwin have two each with Drayton and Leduc split over the vote while Wetaskiwin’s trustees voted against the change.

I always wonder why elected officials vote for or against a decision, especially when it comes to a decision of power. From the outside looking in, the real benefit is to the constituents who will see a reduction in trustee honorariums and more balanced governance on the board.

But for some trustees it will mean less income any amount of extra cash is nice these days and less control on future votes. These issues can be tough to reconcile when you’re used to a certain way of doing things. Losing out on that power may have been a tough pill to swallow. Again, it looks like STAR approached this in a pragmatic way and planners were transparent in the process.

With municipal elections coming up voters are going to hear more promises and rhetoric than usual. Electors are going to hear strong wording about transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. Sorting through all that is going to be a struggle; so here are a few tips that may help in one’s decision-making process.

First and foremost is this rule of thumb: the proof is in the actions. This is most apropos for those seeking re-election. One must ask how accountable these so-called veterans have been on contentious issues. Have they been transparent in their process? Did you feel like your questions were answered?

Even candidates who haven’t been in office before have a history. Voters should ask those tough questions. It’s a job interview and they need to be prepared.

One-issue candidates: Anyone keen on taking office with just one issue that’s troubling them is going to disappoint their voters. Councillors or trustees are elected to look after the whole and if they are unable to do that, they will be easily manipulated into making bad decisions.

Family first: If any candidate has family in the same organization they are campaigning for, I recommend voters take an in-depth look at what type of relationship they have with each other. I don’t know how one can reconcile issues with family members or be tempted to get the inside scoop on an issue. Stay away. Seriously.

Contrarians: Just because a person is good at speaking against any one issue doesn’t make them a leader. Being contrary can be misconstrued as a leadership vision when really it’s just negativity.

Be wary of candidates who only speak to the contrary, they tend to be sulky when they don’t get their way. Unity takes a back seat when a person feels they’re the only ones right on an issue.

If a board, committee, council or any other elected/public institution is transparent in its processes, it builds confidence in those who pay attention. Confidence and trust go a long way to ensuring a vibrant and thriving community. After all we are Ponoka and we keep it real.