U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon Keith once said: “Democracy dies behind closed doors.”
In Rio Rancho city government, closed doors have often sheltered mayors and councilors from their constituents. Closed doors can also be telephone calls that are never returned. One thing they all share: They leave citizens out in the cold.
In our 2012 city election, those shut-out citizens held signs on street corners, calling for change. And change came. Three vote-along-to-get-along city councilors were replaced with new voices and open public discussion at council meetings, which sometimes stretched to four or five hours before the city’s business was concluded.
How inconvenient. How refreshing. How small-d democratic.
Open government does not come easily, especially after years of consensus reached behind closed doors. But if we do not keep moving forward, we will slide backward.
Our March 4 city election has seen spirited debate around vital issues like economic development, public safety and our crumbling water and road systems. Several candidate forums have helped distinguish between the candidates. Public interest in this election runs higher than we’ve seen in years. Why? Because what’s at stake, more than any policy issue, is honest, open government.
We can disagree about how best to solve our problems. But we must agree on, we must insist on, honest, open government. It’s the bedrock of our democracy, and the key to moving Rio Rancho forward. It’s why, this year more than ever, every vote counts.
Rio Rancho city council candidate, District 3