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    Solvency, Sloganeering and the Sounds of Silence

    (July 3, 2003) -- A respected independent civic budget consultant, retained with City Council approval, has produced a written evaluation of LB's General Fund. Among other things, it says LB City Hall "has created a false impression of [long-term] solvency."

    That report, given to the Mayor and Councilmembers in advance, was placed on the July 1 Council "consent calendar," a list of items not scheduled for public discussion unless a Councilmember or member of the public requests it. The consent calendar proposed sending the report to the Council's budget oversight committee...whose meetings are not televised.

    At the March 18 Council meeting, the budget expert gave a preliminary verbal, power-point style version of his findings. These were were discussed by the Council and reported by and the Press-Telegram. At that time, the budget expert promised he would deliver a detailed, written report. Now he has...and that's what what some person or persons with influence at City Hall wanted below the radar on the consent calendar.

    On June 28, the day the July 1 agenda was made public, told our readers the report was agendized. We told our readers what it said. We posted extended portions of it in pdf form. (To view our coverage, click here.)

    The Press-Telegram didn't tell its readers the written report had been agendized. It didn't report what it said. It didn't even mention there was such a written report.

    At the July 1 Council meeting, the total elapsed time spent discussing the taxpayer-purchased written report was zero seconds. On an 8-0 consent calendar vote (Lowenthal absent), Councilmembers sent it to a committee.

    A few minutes later, the Council reached another item of business. This one was put on the Council's main discussion agenda. It was advanced by Vice Mayor Frank Colonna. It dealt with a choosing a new city slogan.

    The total elapsed time consumed on this item was roughly twenty minutes. It was then sent to a committee. The Press-Telegram saw fit to devote newsprint to this weighty item.

    It has become a mantra for some to urge restoring trust in City Hall. We know why City Hall would want this, but for the rest of us it is exactly backward. Those who penned the Declaration of Independence (including a number of publishers and pamphleteers) did not urge trust in government. They urged eternal vigilance.

    They expect us to use our freedoms -- including the freedom to publish -- to speak uncomfortable truths. They expect us to use democracy to end abuses of power, not seek its benevolent use.

    Some years ago, the Society of Professional Journalists ran advertisements with the motto, "If the press didn't tell us, who would?"

    We think quite a few intelligent LB readers know who would. In June, -- again -- blasted through over 30,000 page views.

    Happy 4th of July.

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