OPINION: SEN. MARY SOUZA — Truth and transparency

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It is sad to see an angry retired blogger pen an attack column repainting the past with glorious colors, while ignoring the severe lack of governmental transparency which infected our city at that time. Those in positions of power, and the cronies who huddle around them, often think the ends justify the means, but that is wrong. The process used for public decisions is an essential key to good government and the public’s trust.

Truth and transparency in government have always been high priorities for me. A decade ago, while many large public projects were built in Coeur d’Alene, I was a political columnist for this paper. As such, I was able to shine a light on issues such as taxpayer money spent without public input, government-promised spending limits vastly surpassed without explanation, unelected boards making decisions about millions in taxpayer dollars to developers without any oversight, and more.

These transparency problems were associated with some of the beautiful taxpayer subsidized buildings and public spaces we have in Coeur d’Alene today. Those of us asking for accountability from our city government were not “against” these projects. In fact, I voted for and supported them. But our questions about costs and broken government promises fell on deaf ears at that time. The city stonewalled citizens asking for information. With the help of many concerned citizens at that time, positive changes eventually brought more accountability to our city processes.

A few years later, when the state tightened up the urban renewal laws in Idaho, I was in the Senate and was part of that committee, advocating for more oversight and transparency here in Coeur d’Alene and all over the state. And last year, when an update to the urban renewal law was moving through the Legislature, our mayor called me down in Boise to offer his support for the limits and accountability in the bill, and thanked me for my vote in favor of the measure.

I was also asked by The Press to carry legislation confirming the public’s right to know about severance packages when a public official is relieved of their duties. The newspaper was being stonewalled by one of our local public agencies. We successfully passed the bill so citizens can always request that information about the use of their tax dollars.

My commitment to this community has not changed. I want good government that is open, honest, transparent and respects the involvement of citizens in the process. It is a great honor to serve you in the Idaho Senate, and I take my commitment to you very seriously. You must do your part as well.

City elections are coming up next month, and your city government is here to serve you. Please get involved. You can start by registering to vote, if you aren’t already, and researching the candidates for Coeur d’Alene City Council, where there are three seats up for election on Nov. 5. The people you elect will determine the way your city government treats you. So, look them up, talk with folks you respect, and choose carefully.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Anthropologist Margaret Mead

• • •

Senator Mary Souza is serving her sixth year representing District 4, Coeur d’Alene, in the Idaho Legislature.

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