Why we are the voices

Published 12:34 am Sunday, October 4, 2009

In a recent blog over the availability of or the City of Selma not providing a public copy of its proposed budget, one anonymous pundit on the Selma Times Journal Web site advised this newspaper to get to know its open meetings law and to realize people voted for their representatives and don’t generally have to keep up with government.

That’s what the elected folks do.

First about the open meetings law. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office has dealt with polling individuals before votes. Here’s what it says, “Polling: A county school board’s practice of taking votes by mail between meetings violates the state open meetings law. 180 Ala. Op. Atty. Gen. 35 (Sept. 12, 1980). All voting must be public and cannot be conducted by mail. 180 Ala. Op. Atty. Gen. 35 (Sept. 12, 1980). Presumably, electronic polling (telephone, fax or e-mail) would also be prohibited. However, an electronic, on-line hookup with open audio and video connections may comply – although the office of Attorney General has yet to consider such a system.”

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Now the question comes of why people should be interested in their government to the point of questioning actions by their elected officials.

In our form of government we elect people to represent us and to set policy accordingly, so we can expect services and programs from our government.

On the other hand, government becomes so wrapped up in itself it begins to eat its tail. That costs money. Those dollars they spend come from your property taxes and from that extra money you fork over every time you buy something in the area.

Does that seem harsh? Of course. But if government can spend your tax dollars without regard to the public; if government can set policy as how to spend that money without the public knowing, the public allowing too much latitude for its government officials.

This is a special time in Selma. In less than a month, voters will decide a $12 million bond issue. Already much discussion has taken place as to how the money will be sent. Right now, nothing should be discussed about money without the public keenly aware of what is going where. These are hard times for the public and for the city.

It is the responsibility of each of us to keep up with how our representatives on every government body are functioning.

Everyone has Open Meetings and Open Records Act guidelines on the Internet. We need to watch and talk about how those dollars we put into the government.