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In her letter posted on The Hub on October 15, Chatsworth resident Joan Albright suggests that I be less adversarial when it comes to trying to find out what is going on in Chatsworth. She also suggests that I volunteer to help with the township's website to keep costs down.

Taking these suggestions in reverse order, the assumption by Ms Albright that it is costly to make information accessible is wrong. Fancy websites may cost quite a bit, but Chatsworth already has a website; the main problem is that it contains very little in the way of content. Furthermore, Chatsworth produces and exchanges documents in electronic format, every one of which could be posted on the website with nothing more than a click or two of a mouse. By way of analogy, Chatsworth has a kitchen cupboard with lots of empty storage space, but keeps all the dishes, cups and cutlery in boxes and piles on the floor.

The suggestion that I would be more successful with a different approach is based on an assumption that Mayor Pringle and CAO Moore actually want to provide information to residents, but that is demonstrably not the case. For example, I met with the Mayor and CAO on March 1, 2013 and suggested that they provide information about the bio-digester Agreement, my rationale being that it affects every single taxpayer in Chatsworth (it turns out that about half of the 7% tax increase this year is on account of the bio-digester).

I even asked politely, and renewed my request several times. Nothing ever came of it, so I finally created my own blog last month, and posted the bio-digester Agreement myself.

By the way, if someone reading this wants to find out about the bio-digester, simply do a Google search with three words (Chatsworth shining light); this will take you to my blog which I describe as "the place where Chatsworth taxpayers can find out what is going on."

As for Freedom of Information legislation, Ms Albright discusses the process for obtaining specific information evidently without stepping back to think about the purpose of the legislation.

The main principle of Ontario's FOI legislation is to ensure that most of the day-to-day business of municipalities is out in the open. Here's what Wikipedia says about what this means: "The term "freedom of information" refers to public access to general records relating to the activities of government, ranging from administration and operations to legislation and policy. It is an important aspect of open and accountable government."

In my view, this principle creates an obligation on a municipal council and administration to give more than lip service to the concept of "transparency." Obviously it would be impractical to provide every little bit of information about everything. Therefore, judgment is needed on the part of a council especially about what information is made available on a regular basis and what information merits some form of special public attention, and how all of this is done.

It appears that most municipalities in Ontario meet this obligation mainly through use of the internet. For example, every municipality in Grey County (except Chatsworth) posts full information packages prior to Council meetings as a practical way of being transparent. Beyond this, the nature and amount of other information varies from one municipality to another, presumably to meet the needs of the different communities.

There is no valid reason for any of this to be a "big deal." But it is in Chatsworth for some reason.

Trevor Falk


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