I’m going to camp this weekend, and I’m as fair-skinned as they come, but sunblock is the last thing I’ll need.
That’s because I’m going to the Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Camp in Washington, D.C. Tcamp, as many call it (you can follow it on Twitter via the hashtag, #tcamp13 and its handle, @tcampDC). And while the goal of shining light where it’s darkest or most obscured is a main function of the foundation, the last thing campers want is for people – and government – to start slathering on the block.
A couple of summers ago, Sunlight helped bring the Transparency Action Plan Summit to Cleveland and many of the folks involved in that effort continue to be good government stewards. They got a special shout-out at the 2012 TCamp.
This year, I’ve been asked to participate in a variety of ways (okay, okay, they’ve been trying to get me there for a few years now in part because there simply aren’t that many elected officials whose day jobs are also in the world of civic engagement, good government and transparency – but we’re trying to change that!). In particular, Sunlight has doubled-down on looking into what’s happening on the local government scene – what’s being done, what’s not being done, what’s needed and how does it happen or get made to happen. I’m just a wee bit excited.
So what am I packing? Well, for sure I’ll be packing links that highlight how the Civic Commons has become a tool through which citizens as well as government entities can dialogue and deliberate on tough subjects and can not only increase awareness about those subjects, but also can out the variety of views people hold. For example, in today’s Plain Dealer, the very front page, very top of the fold article’s headline has the word, “transparency” in it. But beyond that? The article is in regard to proposals by County Prosecutor Tim McGinty who participated vigorously in the Commons’ three-day online debate with the other four primary candidates for that office last year – an online discourse that was used to help the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland make an endorsement in that race.
And then there’s the example of the skywalk – a topic that’s gained big attention at the Commons and is also featured today in the PD as we learn that Dan Gilbert is willing to pay nearly $80 million dollars to buy a building so he can put a skywalk in it. I’m assuming he knows he can’t count on Joe Baur and company to cheer him on. But the question isn’t only what will they do next to make their feelings known – what can they do next if they want to stop the skywalk? What would you do? My mind goes to the ill-will this is creating in the community. What price will Gilbert pay because of that – what price will we all pay because of that?
With social media being what it is, you can follow me and the other campers (check out the attendee list here) on Twitter and Facebook, but also look for my What I Did Last Summer post next week when I report back on smores and more.
Cross-posted from the Civic Commons.
Many political candidates don’t just have a fear of commitment. They have a fear of engagement. But with 2013 being a local government election year, voters should pull no punches in putting the question about committing to public engagement to the people who want their votes. Contrary to the immortal words of the ultimate Meatloaf song, we can’t just sleep on it. We want to know: what’s it gonna be, yes or no?
So often, we clamor to know how a candidate will vote on an issue he or she hasn’t yet faced. We provide hypothetical circumstances that we want them to imagine are real. Sure, plenty of politicians pick and choose issues about which they will shake their fist and blurt out a reliable yes or no (consider how few elected folks waffled on the Affordable Care Act; most knew what they wanted, the issue was whether they’d vote for what came before them). But mostly, we’ve come to accept as routine a refusal to comply with such a demand. It’s truly rare to see courage rear it’s head and and expose itself through the voice of a political wannabe as he or she, instead, silently calculates the local vote count that can be earned by resisting commitment.
Now, with the fear of engagement, there is hope. At least, I have hope.
Read about why I have hope here and add you thoughts in the accompanying conversation.