A major goal for me as mayor will be to make Warren government much more open, and to encourage many more people to participate in civic affairs. This is both in the spirit of American democratic principals, but will be necessary for our survival as a city.
It will require a sustained effort and many different initiatives to succeed. Here is a list of the ideas I’ve come up with to improve communications, participation and trust. Some of these ideas are not fully spelled out, but I hope they will give you an understanding of my goals. I’m hoping some of you will add your own ideas.
Get ready to drink from the fire hose of positive ideas:
There will be no more silence in City Council meetings when department heads are asked for comments. This is the only regularly schedule public meeting where citizens can hear what’s going on. Department heads will talk about their problems and successes.
We will create a massive, city-wide email list and there will be a regular (at least 6x per year) email from the Mayor that outlines progress made since the last report, and challenges we are still facing. Not everyone does email so we will also send a written copy in water bills, at least some of the time.
I will write an op-ed article for the Tribune on a similar schedule. I have not asked anyone there if they will print it, but we will give it a shot; I think they will.
I will attend at least one neighborhood association meeting every month, and will organize a quarterly “town hall” meeting which will rotate into different neighborhoods.
As promised in an earlier post, I will host regular opportunities to spend “Five Minutes with the Mayor.” You have a right to talk to the person you elect to run the city.
How can you know if your Mayor is accomplishing anything unless you know his or her plan? You can’t. Therefore I will make my plans well known and update them regularly. You will know what our priorities are so you can make an informed decision on whether or not we are achieving them.
I plan to be too busy to attend meetings or events where the purpose is to have my photo taken with the group for Saturday’s paper; but I’ll meet with any group that allows me to speak to them about the challenges and progress we are making on solving our problems.
For government to succeed the people must trust it. I will stop offering “no-bid” contracts for products and services costing $5000 or more in a calendar year. Everyone needs to know that everyone has an opportunity and that the city’s money is being spent wisely.
Similarly, I will reform the excessive nepotism found in previous city hiring practices. In a town this size it can not be completely eliminated and it probably shouldn’t be. Being a relative of someone shouldn’t disqualify someone anymore than it should guarantee them a job. I’ll appoint a citizens hiring oversight committee to look over our shoulders on all hires to make sure we are hiring the most qualified people.
We need more people participating in the process. More eyes on a problem not only creates a better chance of finding a solution, it also makes it harder to hide dirty laundry. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
To that end, I’ll organize a series of seminars on two topics. The first will be to help people get involved in local non-profit organizations and to educate them on how to run for public office. It will be open to anyone but we will actively recruit younger people to freshen city leadership, whose median age is getting dangerously old for long term survival.
The second seminar will educate people on the city budget. We can’t plan for the future unless we understand what resources we have. The Warren city budget is hundreds of pages long and filled with insider lingo of one kind of another. We need a Cliff Notes version that any reasonably literate person can understand.
Finally, I will bring a completely different mindset to the Mayor’s office. I will not consider you my enemy if you disagree with me. This is not a political promise, it’s just my personality. We must find the things on which we agree and work on them. We can’t let disagreements block progress.
I believe it is the Mayor’s responsibility to convince each and every person in the city that we have our priorities right. If I want to spend a million dollars on something, the goal won’t be to get it done no matter what; the goal will be to convince a strong majority of you that it is a great idea, so that you are enthusiastic, and maybe even willing to help with the effort.
We all need to be pulling in the same direction based on our shared beliefs. We need to trust each other. It’s called leadership.