I have to admit that while Greg Stanton was campaigning for mayor his promises of more transparency sounded too good to be true.
He talked about putting everything online, overhauling the city’s website and being available to each citizen. It sounded great, but for me, who had never met Stanton before or seen him as a councilman, it also sounded like he might be just a great politician.
However, just over 100 days into his term as mayor, Greg Stanton is keeping his word. I’ve seen Stanton take questions from residents at local coffee shops, I’ve seen him appear at every event he can make it to, I’ve seen meetings and even press conferences live online and on Cox Channel 11. He most recently has begun holding bi-weekly media briefings to face the media head-on and take questions directly.
When asked what he thinks of the efforts to be more transparent Stanton’s view seems to be “so far so good,” which hints that there’s more to come.
This year the City Council adopted a zero-based budget and offered a one-hour overview of employee compensation before each budget hearing. For the first time Stanton held his own budget hearing completely online Thursday evening through Twitter, Facebook and email.
“I think some of it I deserve credit for, but some of it is a system that has been in place,” Stanton said. “As far as televising all the meetings on the budget hearings, I watched as a private citizen last year some of the frustration. Even councilmembers sometimes expressed that they did not have all the information. I decided we need to put that to bed. That should never happen in a city of our size. We should be making policy-based decisions and not having debates about whether or not Stanton is hiding information.”
Stanton has also changed the City Council formal meetings. At the beginning of the month the time of the meetings was changed from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give more residents a chance to come and share their input. Those meetings are also broadcast live and comments can be submitted through Facebook.
“Your ability to be an active citizen in city processes shouldn’t depend on whether or not you can make a Wednesday meeting,” Stanton said. “There should be other ways to get your input in.”
Even Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who has been known to clash with mayors in the past, is giving credit to Mayor Greg Stanton and City Manager David Cavazos for the level of transparency at the city.
“It would not open up if he (Cavazos) did not want it open,” DiCiccio said. “We’ve had multiple conversations and he’s an open door now. The difference between now and 90 days ago is shocking. It really started with the zero-based budget. If you look at that there is no other government that provides that level of transparency to the public. It’s huge.”
DiCiccio said his biggest fear is that city staff will take a look at the past 90 days and think those improvements are enough but talking to Stanton, it sounds like this is just the beginning.
“I want the public to see exactly what is going through our minds as we make these decisions,” Stanton said. “All of that is really important and I love it. For me, creating as much of a process people can be involved in and a process that is transparent, that’s part of my job.”
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