The Clarion-Ledger report that Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. is requiring constituent requests for information to be processed through his office, to the exclusion of the City Council, is more than discouraging. It is early evidence that the Mayor is backsliding into the patterns of opacity that led to the City's rejection of his administration and the disastrous Melton years.
Look at what Candidate Harvey Johnson told the Jackson Free Press just five months ago:
A reporter posed a similar question to me when I first left office: Would I have done anything differently? I said at the time that I would have done the same thing all over again, but after having stepped back from that experience, clearly there were some things that I did that I would have done differently. . . .
[T]here are general things dealing with accountability—Making sure government is accountable all the way up and down the line, not just in the mayor’s office or with department heads but all the way up and down the line. There are some things that I’ve learned both in and out of office that I’m ready and willing to put to practice as we move forward.
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One of those things that I have learned deals with the area of communications. We’re going to have to communicate with the public more effectively. We actually had ward meetings for six years, every month, throughout the city of Jackson, but if you talk to people, they still feel that my communication effort was not effective. . . . Not only do we want to make sure that we’re doing what’s right from a government standpoint by making ourselves accountable, but we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to help the media carry out its responsibility as well. . . . . Maybe the media felt that somehow I wasn’t as transparent as I needed to be, though I can’t be for sure.
Guess what, Mr. Mayor? Maybe the media doesn't "feel" that you aren't as transparent as you need to be. Maybe it's not about "perception."
Here's the cold, hard truth: your administration is already not as transparent as it needs to be.
That policy needs to be changed today.
I hope our friends at the Jackson Free Press join us on this point. Recall their important qualifiers to their endorsement of Harvey Johnson in this year's election:
Johnson’s biggest problem was his relationship with the media. As we told him last week, “perception” isn’t his fault, but it is his problem. He agreed, and pledged to get out and build relationships, personally getting more involved with both constituent groups and with the media.
His other self-described problem as mayor was his administration’s accountability. . . .
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Johnson acknowledged that his previous administration could succumb to a bunker mentality. We say this now—if he’s elected mayor, we’ll be watching for that mentality, and we’ll criticize it at the first signs. Jackson needs to stay open, focused, entrepreneurial and effective.
Let's all work together and stop this Administration from backsliding into the bunker mentality.