10 April, 2011

A Website Dan Cain Doesn't Want You To See And Other Observations About St. Albans' Opaque Government

In my 14 December 2010 post I said that any product is the result of a system that is designed to produce that product and that if you want to change the product you have to change the system that produced it.

If your product is opaque, incompetent, unresponsive and unaccountable government - like we have in St. Albans, WV - you have to change the system that keeps producing that undesirable political product.

But before you can re-engineer the system that keeps producing bad government you have to identify the system that is doing the producing, you have to figure out how it works. In St. Albans, WV, the system is designed to control the flow of information citizens need by restricting the flow of information. Instead of putting out information where all citizens can get it - that's called "transparent government" - our system perpetuates opacity in government and has done so for decades.

Our elected leaders get away with this opacity because the voters let them.

It's time we demand accountability, opacity and responsiveness from our council members and our mayor and if they won't accede to our demands, it's time we elect people who will.

I want to recant something I said about Mayor Callaway in a previous blog post. In my 8 April post I said that Mayor Callaway is "bad at communication". That's not true. While Mayor Callaway is very bad at "transparency", he's very good at keeping his friends close and his enemies uninformed.

Council members, too, want to deprive you of information. In a recent neighborhood watch meeting Ward 5 council member and Callaway ally, Dan Cain, stood up to ask attendees not to view an anonymous website (with a URL very similar to the city's website) that is critical of the mayor. Since I don't promote anonymous blogs or websites, I won't give you the URL here, but Dan Cain did and I hope every person in that room fired up their smart phone or went home to their computer and looked at the site Dan Cain doesn't want you to see.

By the way, I call once again upon the anonymous owner of that website to identify himself so I can promote his site. As a matter of principle, I will not reward anonymity.

"Boys club", opaque politics depends upon voter apathy for its perpetuation. Mayor Callaway was re-elected with only 829 votes. According to the 2010 census, St. Albans has about 11,000 residents. If that number is correct, Mayor Callaway was re-elected by about 8% of the electorate. Callaway and his opponent combined got fewer than 1300 votes meaning that only about 11% of St. Albans residents bothered to vote in the mayoral race.

In that same election, Xris Hess (who has since resigned) won the Ward 2 race with only 4 votes. She ran unopposed and could have been beaten by anybody who was able to get even 5 votes. If that Ward 2 race isn't emblematic of the kind of voter apathy and disengagement that keeps producing the only kind of government it can, an opaque, unresponsive, unaccountable and incompetent government, then I don't know where we'd have to look for a better emblem of a bad system producing a bad product.

I've been exchanging emails with a guy who says he's going to run against Dick Callaway in the next mayoral race. "Your opponent is not Dick Callaway", I told him, "your opponent is voter apathy, voter disengagement."

If the voters of St. Albans don't start demanding more from their government and aren't willing to go to the polls and elect a new government, then no matter who's in office we'll continue to get the only kind of government that can be produced by the apathetic, disengaged system we have in St. Albans.
Higginbotham At Large is not a candidate for any office but if you know a Gen X or Gen Y thought leader who believes in transparent government and wants to run for office in St. Albans, put them in touch with me at JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.
Higginbotham At Large no longer publishes reader comments. Send comments, questions and hate mail to JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com.
If you live in St. Albans, do you know which ward you're in? Do you know who represents your ward in council? Shouldn't this information be on the www.stalbanswv.com website along with locations and dates of neighborhood watch meetings, minutes of city council meetings,  an org chart of who does what at city government and other basic transparent government info? Your tax dollars pay for that website. Call your council member and demand that your government become more transparent. See yesterday's Higginbotham At Large for phone numbers of the mayor and all council members.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Only identified commentators will be published. No pseudonymous or anonymous comments will be published. "Handles" and "screen names" are pseudonyms. If you wish to comment, you need to identify yourself or your comment will not be published.