We consider open and responsive government to be an ideal that democracy is intended to achieve. It is therefore incumbent upon us to not only aspire to it, but to strive for it.
There are always arguments about how well our representative democracy is working, and why it’s not working better than it is. But there tends to be some agreement that it may have the best chance of working well in a very localized setting, because there is a more direct relationship between the representatives and the represented, and more familiarity and commonality among the people of the community (which this case includes, particularly, both the representatives and the represented ).
In theory, this provides an environment conducive to open and responsive local government.
“Open” means that the conduct of the governing body can be readily viewed – that the real substance of decision-making takes place in plain sight. While there inevitably must be work that takes place out of public view, information and interactions brought to bear on the deliberative process must be honestly made known. There cannot be a substantive behind-the-scenes process from which the represented remain excluded. Integrity is the guiding principle of open government.
The classic way of approaching “responsive” is to reference the citizen’s right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. What that means at a basic level for the people of Rush is that anyone and everyone has a perfect right to ask of town officials whatever they decide they need to, and these town officials, implicitly acknowledging that right, must in good faith respond to the best of their ability. But what it means more generally is that our elected officials need to view themselves not primarily as individuals in control of the affairs of the town, but as recipients of a trust to uphold the interests of those they represent. Responsiveness flows naturally from this standpoint. The guiding principle of responsive government is respect – respect for the person themselves and respect for their rights as a citizen of the town.
We have said above “in theory” because it us up to the local elected officials to fulfill our potential for an admirable execution of democracy. We believe it is clear that currently, in Rush, we have fallen far short of that. In fact, we have something of the opposite, and are ill-served by it. Our fellow townspeople deserve better. We all of us deserve a local elected team that is dedicated to open and responsive government.