A victory for openness

Published 8:55 am Friday, January 30, 2009

The Franklin City Council, after bungling an important appointment to the city school board last spring, must get the process right this time if it is to earn the trust of the citizenry.

The council took a huge step in the right direction this week by deciding to interview the three candidates for the school board’s at-large seat in full view of the public.

In the past, the council has interviewed school board candidates behind closed doors, leaving citizens in the dark about candidates’ qualifications and philosophies. In the case of the technically flawed appointment of David Benton to the school board’s at-large seat last spring, the secret interviews preceding the appointment fanned the flames of division resulting from the council’s 4-3 vote, along racial lines, to appoint Benton.

Perhaps if citizens had been able to hear Benton talk about his prior experience on the school board, his commitment to public education and his ideas for improving Franklin’s public schools, the appointment would not have met with such displeasure in some pockets of the community.

This City Council, unlike its predecessors, understands the folly of shielding citizens from their own business. Time after time in recent months, the council has opted for openness over secrecy, and it’s no coincidence that citizens are slowly regaining their trust in city government.

Few decisions that the City Council makes are more important than deciding who will govern our city’s public schools. Because of the magnitude of those choices, citizens should be kept fully informed at every turn, including the all-important interviews of candidates.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, the council will interview Benton, Ellis Crum and Phyllis Crum, each of whom was nominated for the school board at this week’s council meeting. Each appears to have the qualifications to serve capably. What we’re eager to hear are their ideas for making the schools better.

The council has given the citizenry a wonderful opportunity to listen and observe as the candidates make their cases. We hope a full house of interested citizens will be on hand in council chambers to take advantage of that opportunity.