This is the second of 10 questions about issues and priorities that NewsWorks asked the seven Democratic candidates running for the Eighth District City Council seat. The questions were drafted by voters who attended NewsWorks forums earlier this spring. Their answers will appear on NewsWorks.org during the week, two questions per day.
We will be running the candidates’ answers to questions 3 and 4 on Tuesday.
How would you and your office differ from the incumbent on the issues of communication, transparency and accountability to residents?
I would have an office in the district. The office would be like a little City Hall, we would make city government more accessible to resident, and friendlier. I would split the district into six parts and have community information meetings scheduled out for years. I will use all means of communication to make sure my constituents know what I’m doing to make the district better. I would hire a very competent staff, excited to serve the residents of the district. Lastly NO back door deals, everyone will know where I stand on every issue and why.
I first would create a community room consisting of leaders of the more than 30 community organizations. This initiative is the key to a transparent council office which communicates, and is accountable to the residents it’s beholden to serve. This council would be responsible for identifying the needs and concerns of the community, as well as formulating and assessing Request for Proposals (RFPs) forwarded to developers interested in the district. I would open an office within the district which would be a community resource for information including jobs and housing options. I would also make sure that my staff is courteous, professional and provides timetables for responding to issues. I personally would maintain a visible presence in the community.
The office of the Councilperson for the Eighth District will build and maintain lines of communication with the neighborhoods and residents by holding monthly meetings in each of the neighborhoods of the District and by opening Town Hall as an office hub to listen and inform neighbors of city business and actively supporting the existing community organizations, encouraging and supporting initiatives to expand media venues within the Eighth (youth newspapers, radio, television and internet). Develop the City website to make it user friendly and relevant to the needs of District residents. Work to establish the Eighth District as a model web access political example, making the necessity of web access more affordable and easier to use than telephone access.
I commit to sending out weekly e-letters to residents, holding bi-monthly town hall type meetings in various locations in the District, and publishing a quarterly newsletter that keeps residents abreast of Council issues and happenings and invites their comments, participation and suggestions. Further, I pledge that I will not adopt or approve any economic development plan for the District without first having open and honest dialogue with community residents and seeking their input.
In my view the district City Council member should be an agent of engagement and empowerment throughout the district. That has not been the vision of our current representative in City Council. I will have a district office on Germantown Avenue that will be open during hours that are convenient to working people. I will have regular office hours and town hall meetings, and I will focus on providing unparalleled constituent services. In my government reform policy paper, I call for more reviews of government agencies, more random audits of entities that receive government funding and full transparency with regard to the use of public funds in our district.
Rather than criticize Councilwoman Miller, I have chosen to focus on the things I know I can do to be as open and accountable to the Eighth District as possible. I have publicly committed to maintaining a district office and would also pledge to keep that office open late at least twice a month so residents would have added time to meet with me and my staff. I have suggested establishing a partnership office with an area state representative or state senator – a one-stop shop where residents can learn about both City and state resources available to them. I have similarly pledged to support holding some regular Council meetings at night, as well as rotating the locations of the meetings throughout the City so as many communities as possible have a better chance to witness City Council business firsthand. Finally, in the interests of transparency and accountability, I have promised to compile and publish an annual Eighth District in Numbers document – a comprehensive report on the funds district residents contribute to City coffers and how those public funds are spent within the district.
All of these issues can be dealt with by availability. Communication, transparency and accountability are all possible if the Councilperson is accessible. First, I will establish a District Office and spend my time equitably between my District office and City Hall. Second, I will have regular mailings electronic and/or paper) to my constituents informing them of issues and topics that directly affect them as constituents and City residents as a whole. Third, I will maintain an 8th district website that has links to eContract Philly (which is the City’s website that displays opportunities to do business with the City), which highlights 8th District opportunities. Last, I will hold regular “Town Hall” style meetings in the District where constituents can voice their concerns and get information regularly.
Tomorrow we’ll hear from the candidates on how they would prevent future political meddling in schools e.g. King High School and what they would do to reduce abandoned properties.