There might be something citizens can learn from open elections of officers.
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, when officers are elected to local government boards and councils, it's a breezy united front with leadership positions being filled without dissent.
So when we noticed the Beloit City Council had a tight 4-3 decision that made Clinton Anderson rather than Beth Jacobson vice president of the body, it ignited some curiosity.
We wanted to know specifically how the seven members of the council voted. The answer, basically, is the councilors cast secret paper ballots which were then tallied, the results announced, without any public record of who voted for whom.
THAT DIDN'T SOUND right in a state that values transparency, so we checked. Surprisingly, state law makes room for electing officers to public bodies without a public right to access. The law states there is an exception and the selection of governmental body officers may be done by secret ballot.
Let us make a counter-argument.
Just because state law allows secrecy doesn't mean state law requires secrecy. That is a decision boards and councils make on their own. In our view secrecy is the wrong choice. Elected representatives, in the absence of any overriding necessity, always should opt for transparency as the default position.
ONE MIGHT ASK, legitimately, who really cares?
Let's pose just one potential reason. If a given candidate faces stiff opposition, citizens or the press might reasonably want to know why. If a given individual is possibly not well regarded by colleagues on an elected body, one of the key ways to detect internal frictions might be the outcome of leadership votes.
So, respectfully, and acknowledging the law allows these bodies to maintain secrecy, we request local elected bodies choose transparency instead.
People can handle the truth. Elected officials ought to trust them.