One of the frustrations that many in Wodonga have had over the years is a perception of decision-making taking place in secret.
It can indeed be a strange experience to go to a council meeting. If you’re expecting your elected representatives to openly debate important matters then you will be disappointed.
You’ll hear the recommendation and will hear glowing words from a token councillor in favor of the motion before the vote in favour is taken.
By no means is that to say that the community does not believe a lot of work didn’t go into reaching that point.
Everything from a council officer’s investigation and preparation of a particular report to the divergent views of those elected to the council ensures these matters are rigorously tested. We are not saying this does not place; clearly it does and so it should, given the importance of the council’s decisions to the city’s ongoing health, happiness and prosperity.
But to have a situation where the debate has been done out of earshot of Wodonga’s residents and ratepayers is unacceptable. And it has been for a long time.
For one, the community is entitled to know the basis for the arguments brought to the table by councillors, who they elected in the first place.
It is entitled to know how a decision ultimately has been reached, both in terms of accountability and transparency but also as a means of informing them as to whether councillors are doing their job.
Clearly councillors are not rubber-stamping decisions in open meetings, yet we simply do not know what indeed they are doing.
Mayor Anna Speedie should be congratulated on pushing for the city’s councillor briefings to be made public.
In doing so, she argued that she wanted “that misused word” transparency taken out of the picture.
Despite her misgivings, transparency though is the key here to what is taking place. If the public now gets to hear these “robust” discussions by councillors, then transparency is indeed what we will get out of such a monumental change.
The move certainly will make clear just who on the council is doing their homework and in so doing, is putting informed, contextual arguments that show a hard-working commitment to bettering the city for all its residents.