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Focus on the Foreground

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May 5, 2010 by wcobserver

Feburary 11, 2010

Big time media means big time reporting.  It seems natural for big journalism to try to convince readers that what they say is important. Is it? Of course every citizen needs to stay abreast of world and national events.  In an “infotainment “sort of way, it helps give us a broader view of our place in the world. However, consuming the news from Washington D.C can distract us from keeping an eye on that level of government that is closest to our daily lives- our city government.

Without small community newspapers reporting the local happenings and opinions it’s easy for the average citizen to think the most important decisions regarding their daily lives are in the hands of unknown people in faraway places.  We agree with the adage that “all politics is local”.  In a democracy, government flows from the bottom up.  Those complaining about too much or not enough government or whether government is the problem or solution need to first examine their own local government.

American newspapers have historically been the government watchdogs. They have relied on the principle that the workings of government at all levels should be in the public view.  Transparency in government allows citizens to make informed decisions at election time.  It encourages citizen participation in the civic life of their community.

South Washington County has three city governments. In Winslow, population of 399, transparency is built in.  Greenland (population 1200) has, in recent years, worked to conduct city business in full view of the public.  Their web site brims with government information.  They post all city ordinances and resolutions on line.

Things are different at West Fork.  The city library and police department recently developed blog sites to provide contact information and occasional posts about events.  The city administration has not followed their lead.  The city has an outdoor marquee across from city hall that announces council meeting and a few other events like West Fest.  There is no bulletin board in city hall announcing government meetings, public events or contact information for city officials.   The city does not send out a newsletter, informative postcards or regular e-mail messages to residents. The city does not have a web site.  They do not have accounts with any of the popular networking sites like face book and twitter. Strange as it may seem, they didn’t make into the new phone book under “W”.  During the recent storm, emergency news about the Community Center being open was made available only from private face book messages.

Requests for even the most mundane information such as contact numbers ward maps, and permit requests require the personal attention of the city treasurer.  Yes, copies of the council minuets are available upon request if you state specifally what you want.  Copies of council minuets, city ordinances are available only during business hours.  Copies are not available at the library.

Sure we encourage involvement in national political issues. But we are the local paper and our first advice for our readership is to pay attention to what’s going on in your own back yard.  The Observer will help.

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