A recent column by Wally Sandelin, director of Lodi’s Public Works Department, took issue with my column of Nov. 12 and a letter by John Slaughterback. Mr. Sandelin defended the proposed rate increases, arguing that this vote is not a rate increase; that the city has been transparent in bringing this issue forward; and that the proposed increases are appropriate for various reasons.
Mr. Sandelin does not address my argument that the notice did not provide sufficient information for voters to make a reasoned decision about the increases. He seems to think that because there were public hearings that disclosed information regarding the rate increases, this somehow substitutes for a generic and, in my view, deficient public notification.
Yet he demonstrated that such information could reasonably have been provided. This is shown by the manner in which he defended the rate increases in his column: First, he notes the vote is simply authorization for the council to enact rate increases in the future if it deems these necessary. Second, he notes that the rate increases may be necessary for adjustment to inflation of expenses. Third, he enumerates the capital improvements and maintenance for which the funds would be used: replacement; water meter installation and retrofit; general maintenance; and, inferentially, investments in a storage pond and conveyance improvements. Finally, he notes that the upgrade to certain projects was state-mandated.
My column was not about the merits of the proposed increases. It was about the need for transparency and the duty of the government to provide citizens with sufficient information in a usable manner so that they could make informed votes on the issues.
In reality, this is a minor faux pas by the city. But the lack of transparency is an endemic problem in the United States. At all levels, too many government employees do not have the attitude that it is their duty to keep us informed and to make information available to the citizenry. While the NSA is the poster child for this, it occurs locally as well. This is our nation and our government, and we are entitled to the information in reasonable manners and with reasonable access.