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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Transparency in Government

Sometimes I enjoy irony. Sometimes not so much.

In a March 26th Troy Times article Mayor Janice Daniels mentions a March 24 presentation on “transparency in government.”

It turns out she did give a presentation on March 24 at the Michigan Conservative Political Action Conference in Holt, Michigan on the subject of “Transparency in Government.” In fact, this was such important city business, it prevented her from attending a ribbon cutting in Troy scheduled for the same day. (Mayor Pro Tem McGinnis was able to be on hand, though, so the ribbon cutting was able to proceed as scheduled.)

Hmmmmmmm…This must have been a big, darn deal. I wonder what Daniels had to say about the City of Troy? Did she share that this is, in fact, a city with an outstanding reputation in terms of its management and financial reporting? I hope so! I decided to find out.

I emailed the Mayor and the rest of council and asked. Mayor Daniels responded:

“Thank you Mrs. Hodorek for your interest in my representation of the City of Troy. I do not have a copy of that speech however …”

... and she went on to tell me all about her efforts to “develop greater citizen participation in government at the earliest ages.” She also told me about how she was on television. And about her web site. And her office hours. She went on and on about all sorts of initiatives. But nothing about that presentation.

Hmmmmmmm. I read her lengthy response and thought that perhaps I had not made my request clear. I looked over my original email request. Turns out, yes, I was crystal clear. (Yep, you might even say transparent.) My words:

I would appreciate a copy of that presentation. It seems it would have been on the topic of ‘Transparency in Government’ and given at a political event in Holt. I would be interested in seeing how the Mayor represented Troy in this presentation.”

Yep. My request was absolutely translucent it was so darn clear. Her response was … well, it was a classic, political spin, murky “non-response.” The only thing that was transparent about it is the fact that she didn’t want to answer my question, but was certainly happy to provide all sorts of great, unrelated key messages she wanted to be sure I heard.

Wait, I thought to myself. I'm jumping to what may be an unfair conclusion. I'll try again. So, I continued the conversation with an email saying I was pleased she is excited about her many initiatives. And I also said:

“I am disappointed that you have apparently not properly documented/retained a copy of a presentation that reflects upon the City of Troy. An audience of people has been left with an impression and yet there is no record of what you said. Did city staff review these remarks? Did you seek input, vis-a-vis the communication plan for the city? Was your message coordinated from a strategic marketing perspective?

“The proper management of the city's reputation is my concern; it has been since I reached out to you in December. I am now affirmed in my gut feeling that my concern is warranted. And I am left, quite frankly, scratching my head. I caution you to be wise and discerning in your zeal to make a name for yourself. ‘Less is more’ should be your mantra, especially with our staff management in such a vulnerable position.”

She sent a one-line response and thanked me for my “kind support.” But, she didn’t answer my questions.

Hmmmmm. I’ll give her one more chance, I thought, and decided to try a little friendly humor. I sent this back, complete with the smiley face at the end:

“So there will be no transparency about your presentation about Transparency in Government? How ironic! :)”

No response. Apparently, she didn’t appreciate the humor, the smiley … or the irony.

I don’t appreciate the lack of message coordination, fact checking, reputation management, or transparency. And it's crystal clear to me now I should stop expecting it.

Oh, the irony. :(

18 comments:

  1. Concerned CitizenApril 12, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    This woman is using our city. She is flaunting her partisanship in what is supposed to be a non-partisan seat. She has learned that she doesn't have real power (only 1 vote) and that she is not queen. So she has moved on and has openly resumed her partisan activities that advance herself. Look at the lineup for the speakers at that event. Wow, what a crew. Are there policies about the mayor accepting speaking engagements and does the city have a right to know where and what she is speaking about? If she is going as THE MAYOR of Troy, which is how she is billed, then the city should have the right to review her remarks and it should be public record. Perhaps Mi CPAC should be FOIA'd for the transcript or video (I am sure there is one) of the event.

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    1. From what I just read, a foia disclosure request applies to a public body. If MI CPAC is not a public body, they would not be obligated by a foia request. Just my interpretation of what I read here:
      http://www.michigan.gov/documents/ag/FOIA_Pamphlet_380084_7.pdf

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    2. Upon further research this organization appears to be a PAC subject to campaign finance disclosure:

      http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cfr/com_det.cgi?com_id=515567

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  2. You are suprised by this? This is what always happens when trying to communicate with politicians. The previous city council were just as evasive/non responsive. I know, because I wrote them. I NEVER received a response from Louise Schilling, Wade Fleming, Dane Slater, Maureen Mcginns, or Robin Beltramini. To her credit, even though I did not always agree with her, Mary Kerwin did have the courage to respond. I wouldnt be surprised by this, or would I let it bother me all that much.

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    1. I actually always had great response from Mayor Schilling, CW Beltramini, CM Slater and CW McGinnis.

      Fleming has never once responded to me, nor has Tietz now in his term. The mayor has also stopped responding to any e-mails I send...but I am NOT surprised by THAT.

      Her promise of communicating with citizens only happens if she agrees with what you say, apparently...

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    2. Well, Sue, I'm glad you were able to get responses from those concil members. What 'probably' happens (just conjecture on my part) is that they may make a call on what side of issues you may fall on (based on postings in social media or elsewhere), and decide to respond based in some part, on that. What I was glad to see was that Ms. Kerwin apparently didnt worry about that and took time to respond. They probably get slammed by the volume of correspondence, but I think its incumbent on them to respond regardless of whether or not they agree with the writer, or agree with their perceived position of the writer.

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  3. This isn't about responding to an email. She offered as a quote in the newspaper that she is making a presentation that reflects upon the city but then, when asked, doesn't have a copy available to provide? And that's ok, because she's a politician? Uh, I don't think so. It's not ok. And it should definitely be a worry given her track record of steppin in manure and splattering it all over the city when she speaks.

    I can assure you that no previous mayor made a speech or presentation about the city that they couldn't or wouldn't provide. But, unlike them, Daniels is proving to be quite a politician (versus a servant to the city), so I guess she is free to pick and choose which of her campaign promises she takes a hard line on. Her campaign promise about "transparency" was a whimsical one, I guess. Indeed, oh they irony. And, oh the reason she should definitely be recalled.

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  4. My post wasn't about whether she responds to emails or not. My post was about the fact that she represented Troy as a speaker at an event and could not provide a copy of those remarks. For those who clamor that the public sector should function like the private, I will tell you that would NEVER be allowed. To have the figurehead of your organization speaking and not have record of the remarks is irresponsible. The fact that she won't provide it leads me to infer she was out representing her ideology, not the city. That should bother everyone who has made an investment in Troy.

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  5. I don't know, Ellen, I'm thinking she ever made this presentation because it was not listed on her website timeline as of 8:13 pm today. In fact, according to her timeline, she hasn't done anything since March 15th.

    LOL, I wonder if there will soon be a mad rush to "update" her timeline…

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  6. The Mayor and her supporters are using the City of Troy, and her office, as a platform for their political agenda. The purpose of a non-partisan City Council is to govern without the influence of politics. This changed when Mr. Pryor and Mr. Gosselin were elected to Council; and has only gotten worse. Mayors Stine and Schilling attempted to provide non-partisan, civic minded leadership but met resistance from Mr. Howrylak, Mr. Eisenbacher, and others.
    Rather than focusing on making our city better the Mayor is determined to make it a laboratory for her political thought.

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  7. FYI, that ribbon cutting was originally scheduled for March 10th, it was cancelled at the last second (I discovered it when I stopped in Friday afternoon to introduce myself to the owner, yet no one had informed anyone at the city about the cancellation), then it was moved to the 24th. I committed to being there the 10th, but due to previous commitments, I had to pass on the 24th. I have to imagine the presentation she gave on the 24th was previously committed to. If you're going to criticize, at least criticize for the right things.

    I gave a presentation to a Chamber of Commerce group recently unscripted, some folks can do that. There was no one there taking minutes about what was discussed, and there is no script to provide to anyone if asked. Honestly, that is likely more common than you might think.

    As for partisanship... Past elected officials in Troy made no attempt at hiding their partisanship, and voted regularly along their political viewpoint.

    And regarding communications in response to public email requests... I also admired Mary Kerwins responses. She was the only council person I heard back from on a regular basis, even though we often fell on opposite sides of the issues. She at one point even offered me her phone number so we could chat in depth. I try to do the same thing, but there have been times that it is entirely impossible to keep up with the volume.

    My 2 cents

    Dave

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    1. How wonderful that the Mayor can always count on you to defend her no matter the issue or depth of disappointment it may have caused to countless residents of destruction it may have caused to our city's reputation. I think that's a great show of transparency of your part, Dave.

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    2. Just pointing out the sniping in this post. I'd defend any member of this council for similar blogs like this. I guess I don't see any foul in the mayors activities outlined above. She speaks to a group and you're not happy, she goes to a ribbon cutting this past Friday night that no other member of council attended, and only gets scolded for missing the one on the 24th. I am of the opinion that a certain group of people simply cannot be pleased. Carry on...

      Dave

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    3. You didn't read the post very carefully, Dave. I'm not sniping. I simply asked if she had a copy of a presentation she made a point of being public about. It was so important for her to make it, she went all the way over to Holt to do so. I'm not complaining she made the presentation. I simply would like to know what she said. You can't tell me it doesn't exist. After all, she has introductory remarks for another event on her own web site; she wanted those seen. She doesn't want us to see these remarks. Why? What did she say? And why doesn't she want to share?

      Comparing this presentation to your visit to the Chamber is not an apples to apples comparison, either.

      Maybe you know what she said in the presentation? It was clearly about Troy's government... maybe you know?

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    4. The sniping isn't the portion about her presentation, it's the portion about her "choosing a presentation above a ribbon cutting in Troy". I don't have any idea what she spoke about, despite popular opinion here, I don't follow her around and hang on every word looking for a slip up or any tea party scraps. If she accepts an invitation to speak at a political engagement, that's her choice to make, and her sound bite or video clip to work with. I choose to stay close to home, and let the true politicians deal with the rest of the world. At the very least be fair with the commentary, you demand that of everyone else. Im fairly certain the previous mayor made presentations outside of Troy... Ever foia one of those transcripts with success? Also still a little curious about your foia request on all my emails... What ever came of all that? Or was that just an interesting read?

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    5. Actually, Dave, I do have a problem with her choosing political events over responsibilities in Troy. The Mayoral position in Troy is largely ceremonial. It's not "political." It's supposed to be nonpartisan. She is clearly playing partisan politics. My having an issue with that is not "sniping." It's legit.

      You really want me to there on the FOIA? It was, indeed, more than an interesting read. You really want to be commenting on social media about what we see there?

      Let's get back to the real question that you continue to dodge like the artful politician you've become ... what did she say about Troy? Maybe you know? Why the lack of transparency on a presentation on Transparency in Government? Did she talk about how it's a nationally recognized city for being so well run? That it consistently received awards and recognition for excellence in its financial reporting? Or did she continue to (wrongly) claim Transit Center funds could be used to run the Library? Yes, I could FOIA her remarks. But funny that I would have to. The fact that I would need to really tells me all I need to know. And affirms my concerns.

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  8. This whole thing tells me Janice Daniels' own political ideology is more important and the business community; the force that drives the Troy economy, is not something she feels she has to pay attention to. She has alienated the business community so badly that I would laugh hysterically if this whole thing was not so serious. And now I am going to ask a legitimate question. Has Janice Daniels done one thing to make Troy better since she became mayor? And I will offer a suggestion as a close this. Once the recall is all over with, IMHO, Ellen for mayor!

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  9. Regarding Ellen: Roger that.

    Regarding Janice Daniels doing one thing to make Troy better: She's managed to galvanize a whole lot of previously apathetic or uninterested folks in the government of their city. So we got that going for us.

    Recall Janice!

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