Civic engagement in the public information tax bill 1041 in Colorado
This paper considers civic engagement issues in the public information tax bill 1041 proposed by senator Kefalas and his colleagues in Colorado. Civic engagement ensures public engagement through open ongoing dialogues which ensures transparency and mutual trustworthy relationships. It requires community engagement in discussions of relevant issues and policy proposals so as to ensure the public opinions, ideas and decisions need be factored into account before taking actions. Civic engagement in the formulation of tax bills ensures a strong sense of responsibility which avoids opposition from the public and empowers citizens and state as agents of positive change. If passed, the bill will lead to high research charges which translate into extra tax unaffordable by average citizens who might be in need of information regarding the government activities. These extra taxes will apply for those citizens who desire to access information on school boards, fire districts, clerk offices and state agencies. Currently assessing information from these departments attracts no fee and should the bill pass into law, access will become fee based unless when a waiver gets granted. This bill will create opportunities of levying illicit research fees by officers far and above the set information research fee.
Civic engagement refers to philosophies that ensure society connection with social beliefs and actions. This applies in single and group actions in public service and civil undertakings engineered to address issues of public concern like the public information tax bill discussed herein. Civic engagement requires organized contributions of all affected parties so as to ensure all positive contributions gets factored into the long term plans (Booher and Innes, 2004). It not only creates transparency and accountability but also ensures a trustworthy relationship between the citizen and the government. The public information tax bill 1041 seeks to levy fees on citizens seeking public information. This in turn, will violate their public right of information regarding their government’s activities. This controversial bill has support from state agencies and lobbying organizations that seek to hinder easy access to their records by the public.
As a result of promotion from such groups as the Colorado school boards, county governments, city councils, attorneys and county clerks’ lawmakers have been accelerating the enactment of its passing into law without public engagement. If passed, the bill will lead to high research charges which translate into extra tax unaffordable by average citizens who might be in need of information regarding the government activities. These extra taxes will apply for those citizens who desire to access information on school boards, fire districts, clerk offices and state agencies. Currently assessing information from these departments attracts no fee and should the bill pass into law, access will become fee based unless when a waiver gets granted. This bill will create opportunities of levying illicit research fees by officers far and above the set information research fee.
The Importance of Public Engagement in this case
Civic engagement can be a right move in the process of developing and implementing vital decisions and initiatives. Public engagement in the formulation of this public information tax bill would have ensured no opposition from the public. It would ensure citizens receive information and help to resolve conflicts related to the proposal thus uniting communities (National Civic League, 2000). Engaging the public facilitates considerations of local interpretation by the citizens which improves decision making necessitating implementation of proposed bills. This bill seeks to prohibit public access to government and lobby organization's information. This information is necessary to provide the public with more data and information on the processes and results of the government.
This information access is essential in strengthening the citizenry and government, so civic engagement is vital in this case. Engaging the public would also avoid public distrust and increase confidence. Disgruntled citizens as evident in this case oppose proposed plans since they have not been involved in proposing alternative solutions (ILG, 2007). Civic engagement in this case would engage citizens in addressing the proposal which would ensure their views and ideas get accurately reflected (Reich, 1998). It would ensure order in informing decisions and create legitimacy and a sense of shared responsibility in a change process. Consequently, this would foster new allies and ensure collaborations which stimulate broad awareness and facilitate change (CAPE, 2008).
Engaging the public provides appropriate and timely information allowing for dialogue and effective response to the public concerns. This will foster long term public engagement. A public engagement process would also ensure a comprehensive understanding of how the bill will affect the residents business, faith and civic institutions. Civic engagement bridges diversity and facilitate sharing of information a component that this proposed information tax bill hinders. The bill is characterized by opportunism from groups with intentions of barring access of their information to the public. Civic engagement is necessary to avoid this opportunism and develop valuable connections (Malik and Wagle, 2002). The proposed bill will lower civic health levels, and as such a good civic engagement need be utilized to realize economic development (Levine et.al, 2012). Therefore, engaging the public in this case is crucial in increasing community cooperation and solidarity by incorporating the views of affected people (National Civic League, 2000).
A responsive government should respond to the will of its people as such civic engagement is necessary in this proposed public information tax bill. The senator and colleagues have ignored the people’s views and are attempting to hurriedly pass it into law before successful opposition. The public information bill 1041 in Colorado will affect the government delivery of certain service like the issuance of permits which can affect many people. Therefore, people will lose confidence in their government. Civic engagement is thus vital in ensuring that the broad interests of the public get adhered. It also ensures that public officials serve their democratic role of safeguarding the interest of their electorates.
Civic Engagement Process in this Case
This case shows biased civic engagement that leans on the side of lobby groups and agencies. These groups wish to manipulate senator Kefala and colleagues in passing a law that will hinder public access to their data and information. The engagement in this case only considers lobby groups such as Colorado school boards, county clerks, governments and city attorneys that use heavy promotion for lawmakers to influence the proposed bill. This promotion makes the lawmakers accelerate the passing into law of the bill without engaging the public to factor in their views. The public is unable to air their views due to the fast process of the proposed Colorado public information bill.
The public is uninformed of the new information access payments. Therefore, they will find it hard to access necessary information necessary in situations of emergency and dire need. More public engagement is necessary to factor in the ideas and views of the citizens who stand to be affected directly by the 1041 bill. Special interest groups control this process through promoting the legislators and this undermines public engagement. In turn, the legislator only informs these interest groups on the development of the bill. The government breaches the trust the public has in it and fails in providing honest communication lines and opportunities for the public to air their views (MRSC, 1998).
Dialogue between the people and public officials
The dialogue between the public and the officer shows a manipulation of the user information pay policy. The officer goes to an extent of requesting unofficial tips for service delivery implying opportunities of abuse of the bill for personal gain. The officer levies a charge on every information requested by the citizen on a piece by piece basis yet the citizens already paid for some of these services in their taxes. The dialogue lacks efficient communication and systematic listening skills ideal in understanding the public. The officer does not consider the public concerns aspirations and misperceptions needed to give a sense of direction with respect to solutions.
The dialogue clearly indicates gaps on the priorities of leaders and the citizen since citizen issues do not get acknowledged. The officer in this dialogue does not consider the reasons advanced for information sought but stands firm on the issue of research fees. He even goes on to deny a waiver and insist that no matter where the information gets sought a fee gets levied. The dialogue further indicates a lack of civic engagement “which would have” identified the issues for deliberation and provide appropriate information at the right time. The service lacks efficiency, promptness, quality and courtesy making the citizen frustrated. The dialogue also identifies possible resistance and obstacles as a result of not engaging the public. This consequently destroys public engagement and corroboration in the event of other policies.
In this case, the government is imposing its will rather than the interest of the public. The mood in the dialogue is neither sober nor friendly, and the officer is not customer focused. The service delivery in this case fails to consider customer choices and the citizens become just customers rather than part of the service delivery. The dialogue identifies the effects of lack of civic engagement and consequences that will arise in terms of service delivery.
Public Voice in this Case, thoughts and Reactions
The public is agitated and discontent by the new proposed bill. The voice of the public portrays dismays in the impacts of the proposed bill. The public thinks that the new bill is outrageous and unfriendly as it affects access to public information necessary on crucial issues such as child safety. The public further believes the state of Colorado is already taxing enough on the sale and property taxes to cater for the provision of the required information. They thus feel that extra charge on the access of information is a rip off and outrageous. The aspect of a tip jar according to the public is also outrageous. They think that there is a need to oppose this new law and seeks access to the mayor to voice their opposition. They also think that the new policy is not fairly nor good. The public reaction is that of lack of collaboration and opposition. They refuse to pay and seek avenues to air their grievances. Social networks utilized in this case shares the impacts of the bill and pool mass support against the 1041 bill. Social articles seek the public to air their opposition against Senators in favor of the bill.
Example From of this Case and connection to civic engagement
The proposed information tax bill 1041 portrays a bad example of a government guided by a private interest and personal will. The people trust the government to act in selfless faith in safeguarding the citizen interests as such they expects to be engaged in the execution and implementation of plans and government actions. The people have constitutional rights, and the leaders should safeguard them on their behalf. However, as identified in this case the leaders act in bad faith and as a consequence the public will be uncooperative in their commitment in future programs. The government should be the opinion of the people and should willingly share information with the people to factor in their inputs and ideas (Reich, 1998).
Civic engagement requires government actions to be in favor of the public and not private interests as is the case in the proposed information bill 1041 bill in Colorado. This case presents gaps between citizens and the public officials which should be bridged to attend to citizens leading concerns. Civic engagement would ensure that the gaps gets bridged, and the problems of discontent in this case were avoided through thoughtful responsive and deliberation on solutions. Research fees in this case violate the public interest of the government as required under civic engagement. The fast tracking to the passage of the bill into law aims at denying people a right of engagement in the process of executing and implementing policies as required. Therefore, a bad example gets presented in this case and future engagement by the public will not be guaranteed. The bill is regressive and violates the necessity of engaging the public in this case.
What could have been done to make better dialogue and communication?
In order to facilitate dialogue and better communication, the public officials should ensure that primary legal documents are accessible and free on digital platforms. The public officials should have ensured transparency in their processes so as to encourage American peoples' participation. Civic engagement through social media could be utilized to encourage interaction with the citizens. Dialogue and communication can be improved through online conversations where the public can participate in civic engagement especially in the domain of the young (PewResarchCenter, 2013) Dialogue and communication could be improved by creating an open and transparent government. The leadership style should be reviewed to conform to democratic values and safeguard the interest of the public. Leaders should have focused on ways of reconnecting and staying in touch with the people.
Civic engagement plays an important role in ensuring achievement of strategic frameworks with a long term goal. Involvement of the public and support from all sectors is vital to ensure efficiency of these plans. The public information tax bill 1041 in Colorado ignores this fundamental engagement process and stands to fail. The public will oppose and deny public official collaboration in future policy issues. Therefore, civic engagement should have been encouraged to ensure the bill gets harmonized with the views and ideas of the public. As it stands, it will violate the rights to information of citizens living in this state especially those who cannot afford the extra research fees. Consequently the public will civically disengage.
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