It’s the people’s checkbook, not the council’s

Grant Miller, Publisher

By Grant Miller….

Grant Miller, Publisher

The Cutler Bay Town Council at its last meeting turned down a second attempt by Vice Mayor Ed MacDougall to make the town’s expenditures transparent and readily available to the residents by posting the town’s check register on its own website.

The Village of Pinecrest has its “check book” right on its website, and so do other municipalities.

The motion failed by a 4-1 vote. The first attempt several months ago was rejected with claims it would be too costly, and there would be too many “cranks” asking too many questions.

Those concerns were laid to rest when MacDougall reported the information required only a click of a button. This time, led by Councilmember Ernie Sochin, the claim was that the ordinance was “political,” and it was deferred until after the town’s Nov. 2 election.

“We promised an open government,” Nancy McCue, leader of the incorporation movement, told the council. “This is the people’s check book, not yours.”

The genesis of the legislation began in 2005. MacDougall, chair of the town’s Charter Commission, insisted the charter include language which requires Cutler Bay’s town manager to utilize information technology to encourage efficiency in government and better communication with its citizens. Some residents opposed the addition, arguing that none of the other cities included it in their charters. MacDougall insisted and the provision was added.

In March 2008, the Cutler Bay Charter Revision Commission, led by a blue ribbon panel of residents from the town, strengthened the technology provision. It subsequently was approved by Cutler Bay voters.

Included in the revised section was a directive to the town manager to make recommendations to the council, and the manager “shall, subject to budgetary limitations, appropriate sufficient funds to make the proficient use of cost-effective information technology designed to make the administration of the town’s government accessible and transparent; reduces the use of paper and the town’s ‘carbon footprint,’ and other technologies that save energy, reduce space requirements, improves communication and makes the internal administration and financial reporting of the town more efficient.”

Key words are to make the government accessible and transparent. That was the intention of MacDougall.

Under the existing rules, a citizen who wants to review how his tax dollars are being spent must appear at Town Hall and complete a Public Records Request for Information. Afee is assessed and the citizen can receive a copy of their request in a week or more. Of course, if there is a second request, the process begins again.

“I’m at work when Town Hall is open,” said homeowner Richard Rebuth. “Like thousands of other Cutler Bay residents I’d have to take time off from work to make a request, then again to retrieve the information. I can’t afford to do that once, let alone a second time. Why can’t we have it online?”

With MacDougall’s ordinance, anyone can click online and learn daily, if desired, how the town is spending his or her tax dollars.

The majority of the town council continues to place roadblocks to transparency Why? What is there to hide? Too many trips? Too many meals? Too many parking meters?

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