A recent article authored by Jose Ocha of Voice of OC regarding the use of rock riprap along the banks of the Santa Ana River once again raises concerns over government transparency, this time regarding public debate over treatment of the homeless.
Many reading Mr. Ocha’s article will likely jump immediately into a debate about treatment of the homeless — a very justifiable debate to hold. In the process, we must not overlook a more fundamental debate. The debate concerning potential efforts by county officials to stop us not just from holding the homeless debate, but also other debates on other issues regarding county operations.
Ultimately the citizens of a representative democracy have ownership responsibility for the operation of their government. It’s a responsibility government officials undermine should they engage in any efforts to obscure information from the citizen-owners of our government.
While by no means absolute and in all cases, we do regularly discover instances of government officials trying to take actions “in secret” to varying degrees. They wish to avoid accountability to the citizen-owners of our government for taking those actions. Yet we must understand and appreciate as citizen-owners of our government, we have ultimate responsibility for our government.
Did the officials attempt to hide the homeless aspect of the riprap work from the citizen-owners of our government? While intent is often difficult to establish, the officials now suffer from taking actions suggesting the possibility.
Should such actions be taken against the homeless? Many citizen-owners of our government may wish to debate the issues from both sides. Shared by both sides of all such debates is officials potentially denying the citizen-owners the right to hold those debates about their own government through varying efforts to obscure information.
Within a representative democracy we are the citizen-owners of our government and thus we have the ultimate responsibility for our government. If we are to live up to our responsibility, then we must insist no one deny us the information we require to fulfill our responsibility.
Keith Burgoyne is a resident of Westminster
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