Trying to bridge the communication gap

If you have lived here for more than a few months, you know that we, the citizens of Douglas County, have had some difficulty communicating with our county government. Many of these communication problems were due to a lack of openness, and an absence of listening to - and passionately serving - the folks who live and work here. Rumors of backroom deals, questionable financial reporting, and substantial revisions made to governing documents like the master plan, have led to cynicism and distrust.

Fortunately, a group of citizens who want to improve the way our county government functions have come together under the banner of Citizens for Accountable Government. Their goal is to change the way our government conducts business, not the business it conducts. CAG's focus is on the process of government, not specific policies. If the process is right - open and transparent - policy issues like growth, transportation, airport, and flood management will resolve themselves.

This effort transcends any political party affiliation. CAG enjoys support from across the political spectrum and from many, if not most, of the local people who have a reputation for caring and acting more for the majority of citizens than for their own personal gain. The members of CAG recognize that everyone has their personal opinions about particular issues, but they check those opinions at the door so to better focus on the larger picture - the process used by elected and appointed government officials to address those issues.

CAG is determined to help the citizens of Douglas County understand that our problems are rooted in our government's lack of transparency and accountability, and then do something about it by electing well qualified commissioners who will insist that government conduct business in open and transparent ways. CAG seeks to become a trusted and respected source of impartial information about each candidate and incumbent.

CAG believes that transparency equates to openness and access to everything except confidential personnel issues. For example, one of the goals is earlier and easier access to documents of substance coming before the commissioners, allowing citizens more time to review them.

With today's technology, there is no good reason why the public can't have Internet access - within 24 hours - to any document submitted to - or generated by - staff that will create a government "cause of action."

Examples include: submission of an application for a planned unit development, a zoning change, or an amendment of any type to the master plan; departmental summaries or recommendations sent to commissioners; and all public meeting agendas when finalized.

For full transparency, there should also be public disclosure of significant points covered in private meetings by government officials with parties involved with items on the Board of Commissioners' agenda.

By "accountable," CAG means that government officials need to be answerable to their constituents; that "Accountability Promotes Responsibility." CAG will encourage and support those candidates who will answer to the electorate for their actions and the actions of the county staff they hire directly or indirectly through the County Manager.

CAG is more than a one-election-cycle political action committee, and plans to monitor and publish on a periodic basis a report card on the actions of elected officials. This report card will show how true to their campaign promises they remain, so the citizens of Douglas County can vote accordingly in the future.

CAG has created comprehensive candidate evaluation criteria that will be used to vet all candidates, and a scrupulous assessment will result. A summary of this assessment will be made available to the public.

CAG will encourage those candidates who can clearly explain the process they will use to develop and substantiate their position on issues. Incumbents will be asked why and how they developed their position and voting record, particularly if they differ from those expressed during their campaigns.

CAG will support candidates that demonstrate an eagerness to listen to all viewpoints and serve the stated will of the people. Where this remains unclear, we expect all candidates to aggressively reach out and determine the people's will by employing specific leadership skills and techniques.

In summary, CAG is fearlessly impartial, and will serve the citizens of Douglas County with honest-to-goodness evaluations of all Commissioner candidates so they can make informed decisions in the voting booth.

The group will relentlessly advocate for government transparency and accountability, and it will encourage and support those candidates with a desire and credible plans to reinstate government integrity in Douglas County.

If these are attributes you would like in your local government and in your county commissioner, or if you can contribute to an honest and impartial evaluation of local leaders, you are invited to join Citizens for Accountable Government. For additional information or to join CAG, contact Steven Swabacker at 267-1608 or e-mail him at

n Mr. Ballou is a Minden resident and member of Citizens for Accountable Government.


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