Every election sees candidate(s) promising the electorate that if selected the candidate will be transparent. The conceit behind using the word transparent is that the current government is not being straight with the public, the government is hiding important things. When the allure of transparency, and the disdain for secret dealings, catapults the candidates into elected office the public sees what transparency really means. The promise of being transparent is just another campaign promise that almost always gets left behind, only to be revived when the next election rolls around.
The 2017 Loveland City Council election saw a group of candidates run on a unified slate rallying around the idea of being the transparent choice for Loveland residents. Longtime council member Rob Weisgerber, one term incumbent Ted Phelps, and newcomers Neal Oury and Tim Butler claimed that the current council had been acting in a secretive fashion and their coalition, if elected, would bring openness and community collaboration to the city government. The unified slate would be transparent with all the city's business. That was their central campaign promise.
So how has the new majority done with their promise of transparency?
Immediately after the 2017 election, the new majority tried to pass a water rate hike on Loveland residents and business without a public hearing. It needs to be noted that Neal Oury and Tim Butler had not been sworn in as members of the Loveland City Council. Once it was clear that the new majority would lack the votes to pass the rate hike, a public hearing was called by Councilman Weisgerber.
Early in 2018, Vice Mayor Weisgerber curiously complained about a person's public records request.
Once the council was ready to fix perceived transgressions by the previous majority against the Loveland Farmer's market , Vice Mayor Weisgerber called for a suspension of rules to rapidly push through changes on three city ordinances. Councilmen Butler, Oury, Phelps, and Weisgerber voted with Councilman Kent Blair and Mayor Kathy Bailey to suspend the rules and fast-track the changes to the ordinance. No input from the public again.
Just recently during a discussion for a community award, Councilwoman Angie Settell nominated a well known community leader so there could be a discussion on her nominee and the person put forward by the majority of council. There was no second from any other member of council and there was no discussion afforded to a person deserving of recognition.
At the same meeting, Councilman Blair read a thoughtful, and emotional, statement about his desire for the City Council to recognize Gun Violence Awareness Day. Councilman Blair was echoing the sentiment of people who spoke about the issue at the last two council meeting. Once again there was silence from the other elected officials. The Loveland City Council was not interested in hearing about the concerns of the community if it did not fit within their own individual ideological beliefs.
With a record like the first six months of the Mayor Bailey majority, transparency is not the first word that comes to mind. Any issue that may invite controversy has been either ignored by council, or pushed forward in a way that tries to shrink opportunities for the public to engage. When confronted with being non-transparent, the new council majority, along with their supporters, invoke the old council and how they conducted business. It was obvious during the 2017 elections that the unified slate of Butler, Oury, Phelps, and Weisgerber, along with support from Councilwoman Bailey, cultivated an image of being a community first, fully transparent group of people. This new majority would erase all the secrecy of the previous regime, that is what they said on the campaign trail. Their actions have yet to match up to their words.
Transparency is an easy target to talk about when a person is running for elective office for the very first time, or if they are in the minority of a governing body. Once the election is over, and people have to actually govern, keeping the vague promise of transparency becomes more difficult. The Mayor Bailey majority has fallen short of being transparent. The new council majority has catered only to their supporters, and positive economic growth in Loveland seems to be at a standstill. Will the false promise of transparency be a liability for the council majority when they go to the Loveland community asking for reelection? That will be a question left up to the soon to be engaged voters.
RD Kulik is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. We are now on something called Facebook. Check it out.
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