Accountability — Budgets need to be complicated only if their purpose is to obscure rather than explain.
While it is helpful to have the yearly budget posted on line, that is not sufficient to keep citizens informed as to how their money is spent. Monthly reports, with revenue and expenditures, should be available on the Edmonds website. Audits of Edmonds accounting should also be posted, in their entirety, for citizens to review.
Responsibility — The ability to respond to the ideas and interests of citizens.
I have been actively involved in Edmonds politics since 2004. I have chosen to do the research necessary in order to make informed comments at City Council and other meetings and have learned first-hand how time-consuming that can be. I am aware that not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of groups, and not everyone is available to attend Council, Planning Board, Economic Development Commission, Port, and other city of Edmonds meetings. I would like to make available participation by citizens, when it’s convenient for them rather than just when it’s convenient for elected officials, or for those who have time (or interest) to show up for meetings. I’d like to not just make accessing information on the city website more convenient, but to make user involvement, possible.
Civility — The understanding that government officials, elected and appointed, are civil servants, not our bosses.
Let’s stop talking about the Mayor as CEO. The Mayor is not a CEO, but a business manager, a manager of how to best allocate money in service of the citizens’ interests. Let’s expect our elected and appointed officials to treat Edmonds residents as their employer rather than as their subjects. Elected officials, and appointed officials (including all city hires), as long as they’re not being abused, should always be polite, responsive, and helpful.
I believe that the means to accomplish accountability, responsibility, and civility starts with transparency. There are no issues of national security, nor are there other excuses (save for the occasional lawsuit), that could serve as a reason for secrecy in our city government. Transparency translates to respect for our citizens’ money. Government has no right to tax you, while obscuring how your money is spent.
I want citizens to be able to view public records (notice, they’re called public records) easily, either by requesting printouts, or on the city website. Public records should be easy to find, with effort on Edmonds’s part to make them easily searchable. Records should be organized to be easily discoverable — that is, to find information even when you’re not sure how to look for it.
I want to create an atmosphere of partnership with the citizens, and at the same time, I understand that it’s the City government’s job to make sure things get done. So, there will be space for those who want to be more involved, while those too busy with other aspects of their lives will continue to have their interests represented.
There is a well-developed document on implementing transparency in government: I will highlight these ideas over time, on EdmondsForum.com, or you can go to the source at Open Government Initiative.