Donna Messinger speaks about transparency

Below is a letter to the editor in the Harbor Country News from former City Council member Donna Messinger.  Donna was motivated into running due in part to decisions being made by City Council members during hurriedly scheduled meetings with few if any citizens in attendance.  The Council did not audio or video record their meetings, leaving the public uninformed for a month until the minutes were finally made available.

images (4)When Donna and the other new Council members made a commitment to sharing public information, it was greatly enhanced by video streamed meetings. This move for a more inclusive government was a public services for people who could not attend the meetings. Shut-in elderly, parents with small children, second home owners, evening shift workers or citizens who traveled all were encouraged to be included in  public discourse through the resolution Donna helped pass.  It was greatly appreciated by many of us who wish she was still on the Council. She never swayed from her commitment to transparency or representing the citizens instead of herself. 

Letter to the Editor from Donna Messinger
Harbor Country News – March 7, 2018

When I was elected to the City Council, one of my most earnest campaign pledges was for more transparency at city hall, It became a reality when I voted with the majority of the council members for a new policy to provide live video stream of all public meetings.

I received many thanks from residents who said that they usually did not have the option to attend meetings but never failed to view the proceedings on the City’s web-site. I was proud of helping to increase transparency and government participation.

 This is why I was so disappointed to read that the city employees took it upon themselves to disregard the public meeting streaming resolution passed by the elected City Council. Because we made that policy at a public meeting it cannot be changed behind closed doors by City employees.

I can only hope the majority of the City Council members understand they hold the responsibility of both making and overturning policies at public meetings and that they take this issue up at their March meeting. The public has a right to public input and to hear the debate by their elected representatives concerning this important issue of transparency. Nobody can possibly think that $4,000 a year for the upkeep of the video streaming equipment is too high a price for open government.  


Donna Messinger
New Buffalo

11 thoughts on “Donna Messinger speaks about transparency

  1. Susan Gotfried Post author

    I heard that the city contracted with a service to pick up the leaves and also purchased a new leaf collector. I wonder if that it true, seems like a big waste of money if it is true although that might be why there isn’t $4,000 to provide us with a year of council meetings being video stream. It also would account for the street supervisor to have extra time on his hands. I wonder if it is true?

  2. Donna

    Ray, it would be my guess that someone with not much to do, but read the blog looking for his name, caught the information from you.

  3. Susan Gotfried Post author

    One of the city’s administrative employees has complete control of anything audio/video owned by the taxpayers of the city but under his command.

  4. Ray

    Funny, The 24/7/365 day/ yr live streaming of the NB Harbor goes uninterrupted. Why is that? How much does that cost?

  5. Susan Gotfried Post author

    I don’t know. The Harbor Country News had a news article stating Asked why the city was discontinuing the service, Vander Clay replied, “Because it’s a cost to us, $4,000 a year. It was a staff decision; we didn’t renew the contract.”

    Regarding why the City Council didn’t make this decision in an open meeting, she said, “We weren’t required to,” while noting that the service had been in place about four years.

  6. Rubia Jasinevicius

    Wow, I’m shocked that NBT finally printed a letter — particularly one that points to unethical practices of those they vehemently support and protect.

    The edit is quite interesting. I thought it was stated somewhere they wouldn’t edit letters — isn’t deletion an effort to silence freedom of speech?

  7. Susan Gotfried Post author

    Both the Harbor Country News and New Buffalo Times printed her letter. It appears that the Harbor Country News made an edit of the letter while the New Buffalo Times printed it in full. It appears the HCN removed this sentence. City Clerk Lori Vander Clay erroneously claimed it was an employee’s right to change a policy passed at a public meeting. Xince this claim was documented in the HCN, it is puzzling as to why they removed it from her letter.

  8. Rubia Jasinevicius

    I am pleased to see one publication printed Donna’s letter. The NB tabloid shows support to and sides with the unethical practices of the council and city employees by ignoring Donna’s letter.

  9. Susan Gotfried Post author

    Agnes, think how different the politics in New Buffalo would have been if there had been two more people on the council to back Donna’s ethical standards. The Planning Commission would be strong not a weak committee with few members with actual knowledge of laws and ordinances. The DDA wouldn’t continue expanding their reaches over more and more property so that fewer and fewer taxes will flow to the general upkeep of our city. The employees would be forced to follow laws, ordinances, and policies instead of doing what they please. There would be fewer lawsuits against the city because citizens were fairly treated. And the council would be more interested in representing the interests of the residents instead of rich business interests and city employees.

  10. Agnes m Conway

    Good for her, she’s an example of what dedicated, elected officias should stand for.

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