Thanks for those thoughtful readers who shared some ideas for “staying true” to my constituent’s desire to continue a no-nonsense style and work with the mayor and the council to deliver on the platform I ran on.
There are a few approaches that I will emphasize as a Councilmember — and already have tried to follow with recent policy issues I’ve tackled, e.g. our watchdog efforts on the proposal to build a new City Hall.
Politicians tend to spread themselves too thin — and weigh in on everything. That’s a big mistake. If we are going to have a truly Strong Mayor-Strong Council form of government, we need Councilmembers who each specialize in specific issue areas and become issue leaders.I will focus on balancing the budget, pension reform, infrastructure investment, and open government.
Get to the Real Financials
In line with the item above, a big emphasis of my office will be to drill down on budget numbers to make sure the public knows where their tax dollars are going and what results we are delivering to them. Fuzzy math and Byzantine budget presentations have clouded the real financial implications of the city’s decisions in the past. My goal will be to work closely with the Independent Budget Analyst to take a hard look at the budget and bring more transparency to the process.
Don’t Just Oppose Something — Be Part of the Solution
It is easy to oppose an idea — it is much harder to try to take a bad idea and make it better. I may oppose a project, but I feel compelled to try to offer alternatives that will make it better. Look for my office to tap outside experts and bring in models from other cities and counties.
Stay Grounded with the People, Not the Downtown “Echo Chamber”
Too often politicians fall victim to group think-and lose touch with the true voice of the people. During the campaign I committed to have a District Office, partly to improve constituent service to my district, but also to put more distance between my team and the “echo chamber” of City Hall. While I will have a presence at City Hall to advance legislation, you’ll see me mostly out and about listening to constituents and stakeholder groups.
Forge Alliances and Partnerships
Getting something done at City Hall requires five votes on the City Council. That’s why I will try to partner with other Councilmembers on most of the initiatives I pursue. In addition, we need to have a “reform team” working at City Hall — integrating the efforts of the Mayor, City Attorney, and City Council. We certainly won’t agree on every detail — in fact a respectful debate on issues can make for better policy outcomes. Nevertheless, a good working partnership can and should be forged.
Take it to the People
As a last resort, if we cannot achieve change within the system, you sometimes have to take an issue directly to the people to impose change on a system. I think we may be headed to those initiatives on some issues, but I’m committed to exhausting every option to achieving change internally.
No one individual can bring that culture change. There will be no single “White Knight” riding in to save the day. With a little faith and a lot of hard work, however, I believe we can make positive change happen. The principles above will guide what I think my supporting role might be in that change process.