The year 2013 is shaping up as one big, throbbing headache for Northwestern Michigan College's elected officials.
NMC's Board of Trustees stumbled and bumbled through the year's first nine months, embarrassing themselves with a series of poorly conceived decisions that prompted public scrutiny and negative reaction.
Board members deserved bad ink and community blow-back for hatching a restrictive campus "expression policy" that a lawyer subsequently called "blatantly unconstitutional," an effort apparently designed to quell the voices of audacious sorts who believe free speech and public places are a hand-in-hand concept.Trustees richly deserved a landslide ballot box backlash for masterminding a would-be tax hike by way of an unnecessary, costly, and stealth-based special election.
Finally, they deserved the widespread eye-rolling public response to their late-to-the-party chatter over whether to embrace electronic recording of their board meetings.
Yes, it's been a bad stretch for the NMC board, but the board's foibles might be a good omen for local taxpayers and open government proponents. That's because it's clear for all to see that change is long overdue on the NMC board, an elected body too heavily weighted with good ol' boy types too comfortable with behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing, but not so much so with open, transparent government.
It's unacceptable that in 2013, decades after the advent of such technology, the elected officials who lead NMC's multi-million dollar operation refuse to televise, videotape or even audio record their meetings.
Mere oversight? Not a chance. It's by choice and it's driven by strategy and plausible deniability.
To date, if taxpayers and others don't attend NMC meetings, they're out of luck if they want an exact record of board members' comments and decisions. And NMC's leaders are oh-so-aware of that fact. If no one's able to review their actions through the magic of recorded and broadcast electronic imagery, well, who's to say who said and did what?