Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 by Michael
#VT – As Front Porch Forum expands across Vermont, we occasionally run into local conflicts around transparency. In some cases it pits old guard town fathers and mothers who have run things their way for generations vs. citizens who want to know what’s going on, how decisions are being made, and how they might get involved.
Some local officials embrace the enhanced citizen interest that FPF can bring, while others resist or even reject it wholly. We had a selectboard and town manager withdraw from their town’s FPF in southern Vermont recently because their constituents were using their FPF to raise uncomfortable questions. They also decided to warn their public meetings at the last possible moment mandated by state law. In a different community, the town manager is taking a beating via FPF on local budget issues, but he tells me he’d much rather hear from his critics and be able to address their points — which he does via FPF — than not.
We see a similar pattern with citizens. Most see the value in more local discussion on the variety of topics that FPF engenders. But others grow frustrated when they read viewpoints that run counter to theirs… and unfortunately a small number quit. We see this from both the left and right of the political spectrum. We encourage folks not to retreat into their respective echo chambers, but to stay engaged with their neighbors. But it’s not simple or easy.
We’re eager to work with local public officials and citizens to help them get the most out of their FPF. We celebrate where this seems to be working well. We appreciate Jim, for example, for his FPF posting today…
Thanks to Front Porch Forum for making Hinesburg a more transparent town.
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