3 thoughts on “My Remarks On Transparency, Openness, And Civic Participation”

  1. Hi Brad, Hope the first day of Spring for you is as beautiful as it is for us in Georgia. I would like to thank you for sharing your presentation on transparency. When I hear that word, I am made to think of what it means when information that should be accessible to the public, instead is kept in the dark. For me as a citizen, it matters when people want to meet behind closed doors, not speak to the press, keep information in locked files (for years and years). Everyone understands, I think, that for national security and safety, some information must be classified, but in the last eight years a lot of things were hidden from the public that should have seen sunshine. So one must ask the question when information is not accessible, what is the reason or rationale for keeping it from public exposure? So I would say with the exception of information that might jeopardize the safety and security of our Nation, let there be light.

  2. Margaret,

    I think you can guess that I’m as big a fan of transparency as anyone. I’ve been working on this issue for three years now in my role with the LBJ Library (remember, lbj was the guy who said of his library, “let it all show … the good and the bad. It belongs to the American people.” or something like that! If you want the exact quote, you’ll have to come to Austin where it’s engraved in stone.)

    But the other night I had a strange conversation with a Vietnam vet – probably my closest ultra right wing friend – who insisted that Obama was going to “make injured veterans pay for their own health care.” I did some minor research and found that there have been conversations about how (and who) should pay for what. When I pointed out the inconsistency in these talks and 1) Obama’s push for greater access to health care for ALL, and 2) Mrs. Obama’s concern for military families, that only provided more fuel to the fire – this was a move to escalate the health care issue so that we would rush toward socialized health care. ARGH!

    In the spirit of transparency, these conversations about shifting health care costs to the private insurers were open, but they were only exploratory, open deliberation, not policy statements. They didn’t go any further than a few questions that were quickly rebuffed by the VA. In any event, the ideas being explored were NOT intended to reduce health care services for veterans.

    So is a return to secret, closed door meetings the answer?

    NO

    The answer lies with the American public. We must be willing to let our elected officials “waffle” (whoa, there’s a blast from the past – a “character trait” that kept a man out of higher office) and to deliberate openly WITH the American public. We need to allow a little breathing (or deliberating) room for our elected officials. We don’t want them doing that behind closed doors. Deliberation is hard. If we force it behind closed doors, we make it too easy for our elected officials to cave in. If we force it out into the open and reward them for spending time asking tough questions, exploring outrageous options, trying on new ideas, talking to the “other side” then maybe we can have transparency and respect for the difficult decisions that we expect our elected officials to make on our behalf.

    We need to spend a little more time talking about the side of the coin you referenced that deals with the responsibilities of citizens and quit beating up the men and women who have to represent our cacophony of interests.

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