HomeNewsOp-ed: Legislators should provide more transparency to constituents

Op-ed: Legislators should provide more transparency to constituents

Democratic candidate in the 152nd Legislative District Daryl Boling believes elected officials can do better at being available to citizens.

By Daryl Boling

Our politicians regularly send us newsletters, brochures and generally try to help when we stop in during office hours with questions and requests.

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We have come to expect this. And, while there have been technological improvements, such as moving constituent services online to sites like Facebook, it’s fundamentally more of the same.

However, citizens deserve much more from elected officials in the area of constituent services. Start with office hours.

Most legislative offices function only during daytime, workweek hours. Some make visits to local facilities and hold an occasional event.

The rest of the day mostly depends upon returning telephone calls. Last we knew, most of the public spends most of its workweek working.

In the 21st century, legislative responsiveness is not confined to regular business hours. Next, do you care how your representatives vote in Harrisburg?

Currently, you have to search a database online bill by bill or rely on a special interest group to interpret the meaning of specific legislation for you. Then you might find something like. “Representative X voted ‘No’ on the Smith Amendment to HB 2018.”

Want to learn the significance of the Smith Amendment? Good luck.

We can do a better job. Legislators should provide better online resources to constituents about how they are voting and give clearer explanations of bills, including any potential influence of special interests.

Constituents deserve more transparency from lawmakers, including convenient in-person opportunities to ask questions. Telephone town halls are simply not enough these days.

Dial-in town halls screened by staff and typically held on short notice are certainly better than newsletters designed as taxpayer-paid publicity, but is this really enough? Why not in-person town halls, scheduled well in advance to increase participation, letting the public ask unscreened questions about issues with your legislator’s responses on the record?

If elected as state representative, I pledge to make in-person town halls with constituents a top priority in addition to the many constituent resources that we expect from our elected officials. And I plan to stream these town halls to the public on Facebook Live or similar media to increase participation for the public.

To increase transparency, I pledge to create a modern, user-friendly website that will be updated daily about votes and activities in Harrisburg. I’ll make it simple and easy to understand where I stand on the issues and how I voted on key legislation.

Most of us are in agreement — it is long past time for legislators to bring constituent services into the 21st century. ••

Daryl Boling is the Democratic candidate in the 152nd Legislative District.

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