Lights, camera, mystery

Dear Islanders,

When I was elected, one of my goals was to make Grand Island government more transparent. Previous administrations held early-morning meetings and voted on important issues in impromptu workshops. This is not some scurrilous accusation. We have a record. They may have had justifications for the record, but for certain the residents had no idea what was happening until it was done—and maybe not even then.

Eliminating the mystery

I believe everyone should have the opportunity to be involved in Town meetings. Now, instead of our meetings resembling the Eleusinian Mysteries, we live-stream both workshops and Town Board meetings for everyone to watch. There are two dedicated volunteers who tape the meetings, and they do a great job. It's something I have cheered, and I am thankful for their efforts. If they ever choose to stop, I will put a camera in the room myself.

As a result of this (and regularly scheduled meetings), it’s much more transparent now. But I’m starting to think there is a dark side to all the attention. Though hundreds more people have the opportunity to see these meetings, it’s become almost like a staged drama at times. Instead of working together, we seem to be working for the camera. And it is often the case in politics that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Lights, camera, and action

Too often, items on the agenda are incomplete or simply have no meat. We are subject to orations that elevate the speaker rather than illuminate the audience. The image of progress lingers, but there is little progress itself. Thus, the camera eye does not bring the clarity we seek. The lens is muddied, and the post script dialogue even more confused.

Ironically, though it’s live-streamed for all to see, we’ve returned to meetings that are surprisingly reminiscent of the rites in the Telesterion, with real preparations and deliberations occurring off camera. Instead of discussion with each other working to resolve issues together, members of the board come ready to perform, recite some questionable information, reveal a shocking “fact” and follow it up with a foggy accusation.

Now, of course, we can’t go back. I’m not suggesting we return to the days of back room meetings at odd hours, and we will not put the camera away. The show must go on. This past week, however, we had a much better and informed discussion. It gave me hope for collaboration. It gave me less interest in hiring a vocal coach and a dance instructor.


Nate McMurray