Public officials should put feedback on to-do list

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A challenge to elected officials is maintaining a relationship with constituents – and keeping voters informed about the work done on their behalf.

For some, it’s a tough task.  The Bossier Parish Clerk of Court’s office is the repository for all legal and property records in the parish, and the Clerk is responsible for conducting elections in the parish.   Expenses of the office are in large part paid by filing and recording fees.  With the exception of the occasional visit to the voting precinct, many have no contact with Clerk for services offered by the office.

Similarly, the Bossier Parish Assessor’s time with members of the public is fairly limited to those who contact the office regarding a property assessment or for property records maintained in the office.

Both the Clerk and the Assessor well represent the folks who live in Bossier Parish.  While the Assessor has a very informative website, the Clerk has very little in the way of providing constituents with information – neither have an effective annual overview of year-to-year activities of the respective offices.

And that’s true for public bodies as well.  The Bossier City Mayor’s office historically published an annual report that detailed a myriad of transportation, utility, and other work accomplished, along with budget information.  It wasn’t widely disseminated to beyond those who were already aware of city accomplishments and it’s not known at this time, at least, if the practice of producing the report continues.

The Bossier Parish Police Jury also has an informative website – but it would be to Jurors’ advantage to provide a concise annual reporting to the folks they serve.  (The last decade or so has witnessed the Police Jury move Bossier Parish forward in countless areas and the Jury ought to be piling up the annual accomplishments in print for review by constituents.)

Frankly, everyone could take a lesson communicating the annual activities and accomplishments of elected officials from Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington.

Whittington’s “Annual Report 2013-14” was delivered to mailboxes across the parish last week, and like last year’s issue, is especially informative about Sheriff’s Office work over the last year.  And although this annual Sheriff’s report isn’t exclusive to Whittington’s administration, his staff produces a slick, information filled booklet that’s a pleasure to peruse.

Want to know about work of the Criminal Operations Division and crime numbers?  Check out page 1.  Ever wonder how many calls the Sheriff’s dispatchers answer in a year?  It’s an average of a quarter million (see page 4).  Looking for information about the BPSO budget?  Page 27 provides the 2015 budget – and notes that the Sheriff’s office has a solid foundation for its fiscal processes.

The point here is that while Bossier Parish governments and elected officials – and employees of all of these public offices – by and large do an outstanding job on behalf of Bossier Parish residents and businesses, they aren’t particularly effective at letting us know just what has been done year-to-year.

So, not because it’s an election year, but instead because information is and will always be the great leveler – this is a good time to let us know just what these elected officials and their staffs do for Bossier Parish.

Doesn’t have to be a full-color, delivered-to-the-mailbox info piece; maybe just launch a new, well-developed website and send out a press release to let folks know …

This is the season of “throw the bums out.”  Bossier Parish doesn’t really have any of those – and it’s time for public officials to let the public know that.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com