With the primaries over, the general election races will now come into view, and I am very interested to see how some of the ballot measures finish. I am particularly interested in ballot measures concerning taxes.
After serving as editor for more than six months and writing for Colorado Community Media for Douglas County before that — it is interesting how the cycle works. Towns, cities and school districts need more tax dollars, and we live in a state where the voters have to agree to pay them.
However, the problem in getting the measures passed is that some entities want to become transparent once it is campaign season, rather than just being open and available all the time.
When it comes to community newspapers like those owned by Colorado Community Media, our reporters do not just show up when fireworks are going off. They do not just write a story because it garnered the attention of daily newspapers or television media.
Nope, we are the reporters who are there for every meeting. We are the ones reading the agendas and getting to the bottom of things even if there is no drama.
However, we are also the ones who can’t seem to get comments or interviews with specific community leaders and elected officials.
Here is an example — I would not say Douglas County School District’s board and some staff are exactly open to meeting with our reporters. Take President Mike Peterson — we are regularly ignored or told no to interviews. Yet, you arehe is the one who swore to lead the board, which includes answering to the public.
Our office gets regular calls asking why we only present one side of the story when it comes to the school district. The answer is always the same — those you want to hear from are not accessible to the reporters who cover them the most.
In all fairness, the new superintendent has been welcoming and agreeable to interviews so far. But, with all respect, she is not the elected one.
Now, you are going to be asking taxpayers to say yes to giving you more money. Well — if you want that money — I would advise a lot more transparency and availability.
For those thinking our newspapers do not matter — Let me tell you, the Q&As we ran on the Republican candidates running for sheriff were the most read for nearly a month. That was even true among readers in neighboring Arapahoe County.
The people want to hear from the elected officials, and they want to have the information regularly not just when money is at stake.
In Littleton and, for that matter, most of Arapahoe County, elected officials are mostly accessible. School officials are accessible. What are the results? Well, the Littleton Public Schools district passed their tax measures.
Transparency with the public and media should never be about doing it only when it is convenient. Mayors, council members, commissioners, police chiefs, fire chiefs, public information officers, city managers and school board members should make it a part of their jobs to communicate regularly with the public and reporters who get the stories out week in and week out.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.
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