Merriam-Webster defines transparent as transmitting light (or another form of radiation) without appreciable scattering. For hundreds of years, this was what transparent meant and was rarely used outside of physical properties of a material. The second definition is the one most heard with respect to businesses and government – (a) free from pretense or deceit, (b) easily detected or seen through, (c) readily understood and (d) characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business (government) practices.
We have recently seen in Aransas County government and, to a lesser extent, the City of Rockport government, transparency used as more of a buzz word or a bludgeon than a business practice.
At the County level, we are told County leadership is being transparent only because they follow the law, barely. The area on the website containing information about financially transparent requirements is in accordance with the Texas Attorney General’s guidance. Anything the user would need to clarify information in those documents cannot be found without an exhaustive search.
For those of us who have tried to do a Public Information Request (FOIA request), the County Attorney waits two weeks and then says she does not understand part of your request so she cannot fulfill your request which is completely legal and makes you wonder what is being hidden.
And then we have this travesty called the General Bond Election.
The Bond proposal for the Courthouse has been exhaustively discussed in social media. It was just exposed the original “guess” on the debt needed for the Courthouse was approximately $6 million and the County is voting on taking on debt north of $17 million! An almost 300% increase in cost and no one working on this batted an eye. Where is the transparency in this? EveryDay Citizens have been digging for information and the surprises just keep coming.
The Bond Proposal for the micro-hospital is worse. The Aransas County Medical Services, Inc. (ACMSI) was never informed on the County’s intent to use their property at 400 Enterprise for a micro-hospital.
ACMSI has been able to get the HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) to provide Emergency Room services at the vacant Code 3 building and they should be opening their doors by the end of the year. This is outstanding and is exactly what Aransas County needs with respect to emergency services and acute care.
Now, the County (read this as Judge Mills and his Long Term Recovery Team) has decided they would have a medical complex instead. According to information garnered by EveryDay Citizens, this makes the bond proposal moot. We have been asked to vote on matching funds for a grant for a micro-hospital. We were never asked to vote on matching funds for a grant on a medical complex. This is the absolute worst in transparency and harkens to Nancy Pelosi’s statement about the Affordable Care Act, “You have to vote for it to find out what is in it.”
In his Letter to the Editor appearing in the Rockport Pilot dated October 24, 2020, Judge Mills accused EveryDay Citizens of “[Elected officials] … being characterized as untrustworthy and non-transparent …”. With the above, how can EveryDay Citizens think otherwise?
EveryDay Citizen Jeff Hutt addressed this Letter directly to Judge Mills at the Commissioners Court on October 26, 2020. In observing this video, you see the Judge looking to his left and right. He then looks to be glaring at Mr. Hutt with his arms crossed. The video clearly shows the Judge is not responsive to EveryDay Citizens’ concerns about being trustworthy or transparent.
Transparency is a required part of any republic or democracy. It is understood there are things which cannot be released to the public (national security, negotiations in progress, personal identifying information, etc.). We the People, need to demand transparency from our elected and appointed government officials and government employees and take back our supreme power garnered by the US and Texas Constitutions.