Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stability needed to ensure sustained change

"Magnetta returns as council president", in Valley News Dispatch, June 20, 2006Yesterday's Valley News Dispatch had an article about Monday night's meeting of the Tarentum Borough Council, but the article did not make it onto the VND website.

In the article questions are raised about whether the change in the presidency will mean a return to a style of local government that is not transparent to the public. The answers to these questions are important.

In my view Tarentum's local government needs a culture change more than a change of officers. A certain amount of stability in the leadership is a prerequisite for being able to see sustainable changes in the way the borough council functions.

Before the April ouster I had seen signs that President Magnetta was giving attention to the Sunshine Act, and that he was determined to ensure that the government functioned openly. I didn't get a chance to see him follow through on that.

After some initial serious concerns about Mary Newcomer's presidency, I had begun to see committees doing their work in public, and was looking forward to a further opening up of Tarentum's government. Her ouster this week interrupted that process.

The battle of personalities has got to stop long enough for any leader of the council to have an opportunity to take steps to open up the government and to be held accountable for success or failure in doing so.

I am concerned that near the end of the council meeting there was a vote to cancel committee meetings for the summer. I have been told that the Tarentum Borough Council does this each year and that I should not be alarmed. President Magnetta said that any committee chair can request a meeting if needed.

If the next Council agenda has the usual slew of motions coming from committees that did not meet publicly, I will take that as a sign of Tarentum Council's return to functioning behind closed doors.

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