Let the People In

What’s happening to “…that government of the people, by the people and for the people …” (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysberg Address, 1863) that we have so much pride in here in Oregon and the United States?  What happened to transparency in government?

The second Special Session of 2020 met on Monday, August 10, 2020 to close gaps in our budget and pass policy issues.  One noted aspect was missing.  The public was kept out with locked Capitol doors from any of the bill hearings and from giving testimony on proposed bills except for very few written messages.  The reason given was the COVID pandemic made it unsafe for the legislators and staff in the building, and there wasn’t time for public participation.

In today’s COVID pandemic, many new ways of communicating are available.  People can meet through Zoom, Cisco Webex, Skype, and Skype for Business calls that have video and audio components.  Messages can be sent by email or regular mail.  Telephone calls can be made by cellphone or on land lines.  Very few messages were sent in regarding proposed legislative bills. Surely, the Legislature could have had some of those new ways of communication set up.  They did so before the special session in June.

Policy bills up for review were not revealed to the public until the day of the Special Session.  Why can’t they be published for public consumption at least 72 hours before the start of the Session?  This would give people time to comments if they wished to.  Not knowing what will be discussed on behalf of the public until the last moment is a disservice to the public.  Most people have responsibilities that take up a lot of their attention and time.  They have jobs to go to, kids to watch and teach, and don’t have free time to follow legislative proceedings closely.  The people need time.

The Legislature is supposed to be doing the people’s business and represent the public.  The public is whom the legislature is working for.  The people should be a part of the Special Session.  The people should have a seat at the policy discussion tables.

Non-profits that provide services to people are inviting those they serve to shape policy, so services can really address peoples’ needs.  For example, a non-profit gave away turkeys at Thanksgiving.  One person said, “That’s nice and thank you, but I’d really rather have help with childcare so I can go to work.”  This kind of model should be adopted by our government. “Nothing about us, without us” is a phrase that comes to mind.  This is true and necessary for public policy.  Don’t leave the People out of the conversation.

Our Legislature can do a better job of serving the public.  When you elect me to the Oregon Legislature, I will make sure that the door is open, and the people are allowed in when the people’s business is being done.