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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Candidate Question #5 Open Government

Question #5 Open Government

Give us an example of something you will do to make Easton’s government more open, accessible, and/or accountable.

Effective communication is an essential ingredient for a better community. The city needs to develop new tools for improving two-way communication with the residents of the city. In addition, various city departments, commissions and boards need to have more meaningful dialogue so that a spirit of cooperation can emerge.

The plan to improve communication and provide for a more transparent local government, we will:

§ Maintain an “Open Door and an Open Mind” Policy that all Department Heads will also follow.

§ Use the city website more effectively to communicate with residents including regular email newsletters. Also, use the city website to announce various city events and economic development projects to keep residents informed. People need to be involved on the front end of all major developments.

§ Work with City Council to suggest a change in the format of the meetings to address city issues in a proactive way. For example, use the workshop session for discussion on a specific topic or issue and invite input. These would be scheduled in advance so residents and interested parties are aware of the opportunity to participate.

§ Host quarterly mayoral neighborhood meetings to meet with residents in a neighborhood setting to receive their input and concerns.

§ Schedule strategic planning workshops with the various Authorities, Boards and Commissions to discuss policies and a common vision and hold them accountable to the goals of the strategic plan.

§ Explore evening or Saturday morning hours for City Hall.We will establish neighborhood “Mayor Hours” at key locations throughout the city at flexible times for the residents.

First, I’d attempt to have either RCN or Service Electric (or both) broadcast council meetings and public hearings live, to make them more accessible to residents. I also think that, whether or not the charter passes, one council meeting each year should be held in each of the residential districts not only for better citizen access to meetings, but to bring elected officials to those neighborhoods. As a publisher, my phone and email has always been public and available; this won’t change. I think one of council’s biggest tasks is to balance power and hold the administration accountable, not only in terms of budget but also in terms of follow-though and mayoral appointments, but you cover these issues in later questions.

I have outlined several things in previous answers including:

1) making city hall more user friendly and opening city hall at least one night a week until 8:00 P.M.
2) development of goals and objectives that are published and reported on to the public annually.
3) promote greater citizen involvement in development and carrying out of policy by formation of citizen committees.

In addition, I personally will be available to the citizens of the city. My home phone number is listed in the phonebook, and I welcome calls form individuals. During my time in office I will spend on the average one evening a week walking through neighborhoods to allow people to voice their opinions in a one-on-one forum. I will encourage city council to hold public meetings in the various neighborhoods of the city in order to gain greater citizen participation.

My city hall voicemail will have my personal and business phone # on the message with a message stating that if you need to contact me, then call me there, because I will rarely check my voicemail at city hall. I will propose legislation that will require a voice response from any city office within 48 hours. Too many times people call in, and a week later call in, and a week later call in, and then hopefully get some sort of an answer to their questions. This is ridiculous. The city employees are employees of the citizens. The citizens are the bosses, and therefore need to be answered to in a timely manner and professional fashion.

I also want to make a Citizens Oversight Committee. This committee will not just review certain departments, but also have the power to fire personnel for poor or improper conduct. This will need to be set out in all of the collective bargaining agreements, but no city employee should be afraid, if they aren't doing anything wrong. It's the employees that are doing wrong things that will fight the hardest against this, and those employees are the ones that will need to be watched the closest.

1 comment:

J. Spike said...

I think we should have the city clerk record council audio digitally and place MP3s of every council meeting and all major meetings held in Council Chambers on the city's website like EU does.

The City's audio will be more clear than EU (no offense) since they can plug into their own sound system.

Then we would not be at the mercy of a cable company showing us.