Bemidji and transparency in government

I received an e-mail notice today with the agenda of a future city committee meeting.

This is not unusual.

Especially this year.

I do not know who to credit exactly for the change, but this year, particularly, seems to be fostering more transparency with Bemidji city government.

To be clear, I have worked with many cities and counties over my newspaper career. And Bemidji has never been what I would call difficult to cover. In fact, there is only one instance in the last 3.5 years I can remember John Chattin, city manager, giving me a “no comment” to a question and I fully expected that one.

But this year, especially, city staff and city councilors have been remarkably open.

I have always received meeting notices for the more “public” committees, like Parks and Recreation, The Sanford Center Advisory Board, etc., but now I am getting notices, too, about meetings of committees that I have not given a lot of thought to. And even if I don’t cover them, I appreciate knowing of their existence and agenda items.

I also appreciate receiving the minutes from those committee meetings, which are being included in the city manager’s weekly newsletter Friday afternoons. (Actually, I think the minutes were added late last year, but have been expanded to include more committees this year.) It is not physically possible to attend all committee meetings, so I appreciate being able to read about what transpired.

Particularly, I appreciate the administrator’s report from the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board. While I do try to cover most of the JPB and Joint Planning Commission meetings, sometimes it just is not possible. So having access to at least the latest topics is greatly appreciated.

There always is room for improvement, of course, but I think residents should know about the steps that have been taken.

Just my two cents for the day.