COVID-19 recovery requires transparent, inclusive government

May 4, 2020

By Jackie Nappo

 

The decision to reopen our communities in light of the COVID-19 crisis is a high stakes balancing act. Right now, decisions are being made by a government structure that is not set up for complete transparency — and without input that reflects the diversity of the state’s communities. population.

What’s going on, exactly?

For more than a month since the legislative session was suspended, all government decisions have been made through executive order by the governor. Governor Ned Lamont and his staff have been working with legislators, other officials, and philanthropic and business leaders to call the shots during this emergency, but those calls aren’t made in the open, the way regular governance usually is.

The government is running under an emergency protocol structure which wasn’t built for long-term governance, and it looks like we could be going through this emergency for months to come.

This structure is inaccessible to the general public. It’s a complex beast with no single source on the internet on how to navigate it, which is problematic in a democracy. (See below for some good resources to stay in the know.)

In addition to executive orders, an advisory group to reopen the state has been created. While we know who is in the group, their meetings are not subject to the typical Freedom of Information Act and they aren’t currently being live streamed for the public to watch.

What needs to change?

The group is made up of committees with experts on education, business, and community. Expert opinion is important, but it can’t outweigh the voices of everyday people. Our democracy isn’t run by business leaders and community experts who have been selected by the governor and his advisors, it’s run by elections and public conversations. This is the only way we can hold leaders accountable.

At a recent press briefing, Lamont was asked if residents could expect a report that detailed how the advisory group came to their decisions, and what if anything would be done to create more transparency. Lamont responded by saying that the press briefings were the extent of transparency measures, which really isn’t enough.

The advisory group needs to take into account the voices of a more diverse range of Connecticut residents. . The lack of representation, coupled with the conversations which occur out of the public eye, carries the potential to exacerbate inequities exposed by COVID-19.

What can you do?

For the time being, it’s important to contact your state legislators to keep them informed of what you and your family are going through. Even though it might not seem like legislators are working during the shutdown, they are still working and making recommendations based on what they see in their communities.

We need more transparency on this process, but what we can do now is let your legislators know what is going on and what people like you need.

Here are some links for more information on how the government is handling the COVID-19 pandemic:

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