Blogs, Brennan and Bad Information

Ron Bolin: July 9, 2011

Re:  Blogs not great for information, Diane Brennan, Daily News, July 8, 2011

Unfortunately it is not only blogs that are not great for information.  A great deal of the problem with which blogs must cope is the same as that which the public must cope, and, I fear, all too often, City Council.  Either that, or Council knows but is, even worse, not talking.

It is deplorable that a former Councillor like Ms. Brennan must, as must the rest of us, try to track down the information which has gone into important decisions at City Hall on her own.  It is a mystery why all the information required is not fully manifest in transparent publically available documents which present an unambiguous case for the decision made. There are (or should be) complete, well-reasoned staff reports.  There are (or should be) Council Minutes full of probing debate shining light on any ambiguities or missing information.  There are (or should be) investigative newspaper reports which have independently probed questionable assumptions or assertions.  There are (or should be) figures which demonstrate the costs and benefits of various options.

In the instance of the annex, for example, how much operating money is proposed to be saved by the new annex?  Where is the guarantee that this design/build process will be limited to $16 million?  Why was no bidding process followed?  Why the urgency to get to the annex which came out of the blue, before getting to the water treatment plant which has been around for years?  Where are the estimates that show the need for the approximately 20% more space than the old annex?  How much will the new facility increase work efficiency?  How do we explain the purchase of the seismically challenged building in 1999?  If I am not mistaken, many of the same people involved in that purchase (minus the mysteriously missing Jerry Berry) are now recommending an expensive and opposite approach.

The problem is not entirely with the blogs.  It is more with the availability of the kinds of information needed to make rational, if not always agreeable, decisions.  In decision making, missing information, matched with the distrust which is thereby bred, makes for very poor governance.