City Commissioners Use Email

Carol at Missoulapolis has this piece up about certain members of the Missoula City Council who exchange emails to each other during public meetings. I agree with the critics who think that the practice is probably illegal. After all, how can one "observe the deliberations" of a public body if those deliberations are observable only on the computer screens of certain members of the body?

What is especially egregious here, is the peek behind the curtain to see the disdain with which certain members obviously view the public. I wonder how common that is on public boards.

And while the Missoula City Council's practice is bad enough, some of the experts cited by the author of the Missoulian piece offered some observations that might apply to an issue right here in Great Falls:

"Some argue that curbing e-mails during meetings or demanding they be available will have a chilling effect on discussions. An unintended consequence could be slowing down the work of government.

Scholars say democracy isn't about expediency, though. In a democracy, society doesn't sacrifice efficiency for openness, Meloy said.“So that argument is worth maybe a half a cup of Starbuck's coffee - cold Starbuck's coffee,” Meloy said.

Lopach said the governmental system values open meetings and public participation far more than efficiency: “As a political scientist, I can say without a doubt that efficiency is not one of the key values of the American governmental system.”

Sound familiar?

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