So this week’s hot-button poll issue was a bit of a stunt on our part.
Continually touted as a local taxpayer asset, I’ve always had a great deal of trouble with the fact that any information about DMTS that is reported to Dryden City Council is guarded from public scrutiny — an in-camera matter.
We get dribs and drabs here and there, the odd detail leaked — like the recent operational review, which was never intended to be public knowledge.
From my profession’s point of view there’s a fundamental difference of opinion over the level of transparency that should exist, or what exactly DMTS is as a business entity and what their relationship to the taxpayer should be — an argument that’s not likely to be settled without involving an Ombudsman.
And as complacent as a small-town journalist must be to survive, the gray areas in which public/private business entities ‘have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too’ are a source of constant democratic unease.
So, when rumours and innuendo coalesced last week into an indication that community leaders would face a decision behind closed doors on what to do with our municipally-owned telecom, I wondered what role the taxpayers should have in the discussion.
We asked you a question on our website that, in the view of our local government, is none of your business.
You responded like indeed it was your business.
I took some flak over the original wording of the question, which a critic said misled people into believing DMTS was experiencing difficulties — something that’s been neither confirmed nor denied. The question was simplified on Friday.
Given the lack of information out there, it’s undeniable that members of the public are about as qualified to opine about the future of DMTS as I am. Which is hardly at all. Shut out of the vision and goals of the company, we have little more than our experience as customers to help us frame our responses.
In hindsight, a better question might have asked whether or not residents believe they have a stake in the future of DMTS.
Despite an active role as a good corporate citizen in the community in recent years, I get the sense that a significant part of the community feels estranged, reluctant to fully embrace and utilize DMTS.
If that is at all true, then this policy of needlessly guarding the company’s broad-strokes vision, goals and challenges from the public would only prevent them from winning over valuable hearts and minds, not to mention the enduring patience of a tax-paying customer base who want to feel more of a personal stake.
‘Where are you heading? What’s the plan?’
Publicly-owned utilities are a fading part of Canadians’ sense of identity — look at the unease that lingers to this day over the sale of the city’s hydro electric generating assets.
In the hyper-competitive world of telecommunications, there are certainly concerns over keeping operational details secret. Nor is it necessary to involve the public in day-to-day decision-making.
What is necessary, if you’re going to lay claim to the title of public asset, is an effort to cultivate a valuable personal stake in each and every customer.