Transparency and communication are key to ensuring critical community involvement and oversight of operations and decision-making processes.
From my conversations with some residents, I have been troubled to hear that some people do not feel they can trust the City government. Clearly, we need to do more to build community trust and ensure transparency.
I believe that lack of trust is one of the greatest barriers to building effective long-term, meaningful, collaborative, and innovative change, and ensuring robust involvement from the groups we need to hear from more — underrepresented communities such as Black and Brown residents.
I’ve worked hard to be a good listener and to provide a lot of information on a regular basis because of this.
Our community suffers as a result of not having a regular independent local newspaper. In the absence of this, I feel it is important (though I recognize cannot be entirely objective) to do my best to provide residents with summaries of discussions and decisions at City Council meetings in my weekly emails. In these emails, I also outline my positions on issues, explain my votes, and ask for your input. During the annual budget creation process, I circulated a budget survey to get your input and wrote a thorough explanation of the survey results and how I voted on each line item.
I have also sought new ways to connect with residents over the past three years — through neighborhood association meetings, meeting with elementary school PTAs, doing outreach on school playgrounds, holding regular office hours, sending weekly emails, and more.
To improve transparency within the City as an institution, I have requested that City staff add information to the City’s website to allow for people to access information more easily and provide translations of critical materials and articles. When the City Manager instituted a temporary suspension of the timeline requirements for responding to Public Information Requests due to the pandemic (as per an allowance provided by the Governor’s office), I advocated for a change to the suspension that required regular monthly reporting on any outstanding PIA requests so that the City Council could adequately oversee this process, and I have followed up regularly to ensure we receive this information.
There is much more to be done:
- Continue to communicate regularly with you, and improve my communication based on your feedback
- Continue to distribute weekly emails with summaries of meetings, discussions of important issues, and surveys to gather feedback, and growing the number of people receiving these emails
- Continue and grow outreach through ward, neighborhood, and individual calls, emails, and meetings
- Develop new ways to connect and build community, especially during this COVID time of social distancing
- Create improved City outreach and accountability:
- Work with City staff to provide thorough but easily accessible information that incorporates data analyses where possible
- Provide more information in Amharic, Spanish, and French
- Ensure that the City is responding in a timely and appropriate way to all PIA requests and explore alternative methods to promote transparency — such as the method this Colorado city uses to automatically make most email exchanges by Councilmembers public
- Require more direct and targeted outreach to underrepresented communities, especially Black and Brown residents, renters, and non-native English speakers, to ensure that their voices are a part the important decision-making processes
- Bolster tenant and neighborhood associations and connections between those associations and City staff to facilitate the distribution of information and improve feedback loops
- Seek opportunities for innovation:
- Create new opportunities to get involved in discussions and decision-making processes — through re-thinking the City’s committee structure and processes to ensure they are effective, welcoming, racially equitable, and representative of our diverse community
- Look to organizations and city residents with professional experience for new models and opportunities for collaboration