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OUR VIEW: A good step in transparency

The full agenda packet published on-line for Clinton City Council


The City of Clinton is due our highest commendation for its recent action of placing the entire City Council Agenda Packet on its website. There is a section under Government where you can find agendas and minutes, and under the March 4 Agenda, you will find NOT ONLY the agenda but all the accompanying material that is provided to City Council members in advance of their meetings (gives you a new appreciation of just how much reading the Mayor and Council Members do to prepare for a meeting, and how much work City Staff does to keep them fully informed).

This is the link in case you haven’t seen it:

At its Feb. 28 work session (and even before) Council members made the recommendation to City Manager Tom Brooks to make the entire agenda packet available to the public. In the vein of full disclosure, the Laurens County County does this also. At first blush, it’s easy to dismiss the idea with “Nobody is going to want to read all that” and, we admit, that is a viable consideration.

After all, that’s why we elect people.

So we don’t have to devote the time and energy to knowing about every issue, and every ordinance, and every meeting that the City Manager schedules and accepts to enhance the community’s quality of life. We also have to admit that we are not financial people, so the money statements sometimes make our eyes glaze over. BUT, we also know there are money people out there. There are real estate people out there that need to know the extent of the City’s proposed Impact Fees - many communities are implementing these as South Carolina experiences a population boom. The Balance is, charging enough to cover expenses, but not charging so much that it scares off development that can increase the tax base.

We have to admit, we have not read through the ordinances considered last Monday night by the Council. But we will. That will be looking for follow-up articles - such as, how much will developers have to pay extra for police and fire, and recreation if they decide to build houses and/or multi-family dwellings inside the City of Clinton or on annexed property (the county does not have Impact Fees, despite the huge influx of development south of Fountain Inn); and which properties are the City giving over to the quasi-public Clinton Economic Development Corporation for marketing - there is no real advantage in Clinton holding onto land, especially when it has been documented that the electric Rate Stabilization Fund was used - repeatedly - to pay expenses that should have been budgeted. Council members have said many times that they were not kept in the loop on this spending, and transparency measures have been enacted by the city administration to ensure that never happens again.

It is especially heartening that Clinton’s action in expanding its access to documents came just before Sunshine Week (ad at right). Too many times, open government is portrayed as a media concern - it actually is a citizens’ concern. South Carolina law gives any citizen - actually, any person - the right to access some government records, but many times inflated cost for “searching” stymies that process. It is better when the government, of its own accord, makes records available. To that end, it would be a good idea for the City of Clinton to post the entire report from an independent auditor related to the Rate Stabilization Fund on its website, and in a way that calls attention to it.

Again, perhaps the average citizen would not be interested - but, perhaps, the financially minded among us would be interested, and interested enough to suggest some useful guardrails to future spending.

We know that government is just over-run with reports, so much so that it makes you wonder when reports are not issued - Clinton had a vehicle v pedestrian fatality this month, no Highway Patrol report was issued through the normal media channels. Involving other agencies, there was no official report issued on an apparent domestic homicide-suicide, we presume because the person who shot the other person is dead and, therefore, will not face charges. Contrast that with, when the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office had an officer-involved shooting this month (no one was wounded), the State Law Enforcement Division announced an investigation the next day on the SLED Newsroom, as is normal when an officer discharges his/her weapon.

Again, it’s “just” paperwork, but it is the kind of paper that keeps people accountable. The City of Clinton is to be commended for taking that step of accountability and giving us a window into the workings of how local laws are made. And, it’s not just ordinances - on its site find Government/Agendas, see March 4 resolutions. Interesting reading.