Sunlight, Please

Even the Capital, long a cheerleader of the Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Commission, is aghast at the closed door tactics adopted by the Commission during their selection process:

Although the public knows who was chosen, it is been kept in the dark about why they were chosen. That’s a troubling sign for a new public body….

….Public bodies should be transparent. That’s what the commissioners promised the public at their very first meeting. And isn’t a robust discussion about future school board members the public’s business?

A private meeting to discuss these nominations – on the ground that this is a personnel decision – may be within the letter of the law, but has nothing to do with the law’s spirit.

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And I agree. But some of the other points the Capital makes don’t necessarily serve their point:

If you apply for an influential public office, enduring a public discussion of your qualifications – and perhaps your temperament – isn’t too much to ask. Would we want a county executive or County Council member chosen behind closed doors? Why should it be any different for a school board member who will have a major voice on our children’s education?

A full and open discussion keeps the public informed and assures people that a public body isn’t mired in cronyism or conflicts of interest.

Openness is not always convenient or easy, but it keeps public officials honest. We doubt legislators intended to drop a cloak of secrecy around this process when they created it last year.

And I couldn’t agree more. But what hoots down their argument is the fact that the Capital is against an elected School Board. All of the things they say are correct, but can only be done justly and properly in a situation where the voters, not political cronies of Martin O’Malley and John Leopold, get the final say on who gets to serve. I want candidates to be scrutinized by the public. I want their qualifications discussed. But I want it done by the voters, not the unelected hacks that make up the Commission.

The public would be best served if the General Assembly were to right this wrong, disband the Commission, and allow the voters to elect the members of the School Board as soon as humanly possible.


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