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Here’s a policy: Speak the truth

 

Port Arthur city leaders are tripping over their own tongues of late, changing their official stories and “communications policies” as frequently as some folks change their shirts.

Bad idea.

Some news media outlets might view these continuing struggles at City Hall gleefully. It makes for colorful reading and salacious viewing. It appeals to one’s righteous sense of right and wrong.

Count us out, at least as gleeful. We don’t celebrate anyone’s misfortunes or their willful walks down erroneous pathways, although this newspaper has had more than one clash of late with our elected and appointed city leaders.

We know this: It does Port Arthur no good when its elected and appointed leaders flop. When they embarrass themselves, they embarrass our city. We will report Port Arthur’s missteps, but we won’t take pleasure from it.

All people of good will should hope for the success of civic leaders. That doesn’t mean we should tell them they are right when they are wrong nor does it mean we should nod numbly in agreement when we know they speak in error; only servile and duplicitous people do that. Elected and appointed leaders have plenty of backslapping supporters who are like that. You can sit in the council chambers and watch them.

It does mean we should encourage elected and appointed city leaders to do better, to serve Port Arthur people first by fully and accurately informing them, by being transparent in their official dealings.

That would be a good idea.

If our elected and appointed leaders want an effective communications “policy,” they should try these:

Speak the truth. If you speak in error, say you erred. If the police chief says the Texas Rangers are investigating his case, and they say they are not, concede the discrepancy, seek the truth and move on.

Be transparent. The continuing saga of Engine 503, the decaying locomotive that the city is apparently scrapping in Bryan Park, seems to have been initiated in an executive session — that’s a session closed to the public — and many people are rightfully angry. Some feel elected leaders acted in secret — because they did. That’s the nature of an executive session. Conduct the public’s business in public.

Answer questions promptly. Don’t require Freedom of Information requests before you provide perfunctory answers to perfunctory questions. Otherwise, you’ll bury your desks under your own needless paperwork.

Be candid. When people ask you direct questions, provide direct answers. It’s not your election year; but even when it is, you should speak the truth. People find out anyway.

Begin again. If elected and appointed leaders believe they’re erred — if they didn’t, why the new policy? — start over. There’s never a bad time to fix what’s wrong.