City Council candidate question of the week: Government transparency
Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week’s question is: Define “government transparency” as it applies to city government. Grade the city administration, and the Cape Coral City Council, each on how well it meets your definition. What actions will you take and/or what policies would you propose, if any, to maintain or improve the grades you assigned?
Sunshine Law makes it the city’s obligation to share information with residents that is needed to make informed decisions and hold city officials accountable. When residents feel that their city officials are working hard to earn their trust through transparency it builds confidence in city officials. I would give the city administration and Council a grade of C. I will recommend returning to four Council meetings a month to provide additional voting meetings, allow more open dialogue especially on controversial topics, and decrease meeting length. I would work to prevent council from adding last minute discussion items to the agenda.
Elected officials should always be communicating with the people they serve. Government transparency means stating your positions publicly, standing behind those words and engaging in dialogue with the people of this city. I also believe there should be healthy debate / discussion from the dais so the people can see the thought process behind decisions. I think we have some that are better than others at communicating with the people of this city. My commitment would be to treat this as a conversation where we exchange ideas with each other. I will also publish my reasoning behind decisions publicly.
Government transparency is when any citizen should know where to obtain information, before its voted on, and know how the city and its council stands/votes on EVERY topic. They should be provided facts/answers without issues; adding “last minute” items to an agenda isn’t transparent; Grade C. It’s the integrity of the councilperson to “refine” the subject so it’s understood by all. A councilperson is the eyes, ears, and voice for the citizens. That’s why it’s very important to pick a candidate with the history and the guts to voice concerns/facts when not politically correct.
Florida’s Sunshine laws are in place for a reason. Council seems to ignore the fact that it applies to them. The Mayor oversees the agenda and has control. Changing Council rules is simple: staff must meet Council expectations.
I will work to:
Have agendas published no later than noon on Wednesday for all planned meetings.
No additions/changes to agendas or files being added after they are published.
Too much going on…then add back the regular Council meeting that was removed.
Still a problem?…then call a special meeting.
Continuing with E-comments for all public meetings is critical to Transparency.
Government transparency is following the Sunshine Law. It is honoring public records requests in a timely manner. It is providing all essential information, like budgets, policies and procedures, etc., on easy-to-find pages on the city website so residents can find what they need. It is good, constructive debate among council members during meetings, connecting residents to the issues. I’ll give the city administration and the council a B-. We can all do better in being transparent and accountable to the needs of the community. Reviewing information policies each year with staff to determine what can be improved is important. For me, transparency will include bi-monthly newsletters and quarterly town halls to keep residents informed.
Lack of transparency is the most prevalent government criticism. Some is earned, some not. It equates to trust-“difficult to earn & incredibly easy to lose.” The Question implies council-administration are lacking & there are matters on which it appears valid.
* Residents deserve officials who are trustworthy, have integrity & are consistent in belief.
* Hold all conducting city business to same accountability standard in delivering results as advertised & communicating changes in process-expectation if arise
* Responsiveness to “voice of the people”, e.g. courteous acknowledgment & follow up of resident council meeting topics
* Communication anchors transparency
* Posted councilmember office contact hours, frequent townhall forums (rotated locations) & resident-councilmembers access, robust electronic-mail system.
*** District 5
Louis C. Navarra
Government transparency is telling the truth. It is not hiding facts from the taxpayers like how much is spent on Coral Oaks Golf Course and Sunsplash. It is a low score on transparency. They did not even tell you they spent $25,000 for a commissioner that wanted her daughter to have Wifi at the new parks.
Tell the truth to the taxpayers. It is just that simple.
Jessica Cosden, Incumbent
From day one in office, transparency began with listening to citizens’ concerns and answering their questions. Under a transparent city government, citizens have access to information, leaders are trusted/accessible, and nothing is hidden (purposely or inadvertently). Using this definition, I give city administration a C+ and Council a B. During the parks planning process, additions for two parks were unintentionally excluded which eroded trust in our administration. Council meetings must also be transparent. To increase transparency, last year I brought forward stricter rules to discourage last-minute additions; these rules are still not being followed, and it’s incumbent upon Council to enforce them.
Patty L. Cummings
Transparency and accountability are important to citizens regardless of political leanings. Having access to data is beneficial for everyone. Adding a user friendly forum /chat room/voting poll on topics in each district to allow citizens input on upcoming issues would improve communications and allow better understanding on how voters feel. It’s about the government working for the people.
Citizens need to know what their representatives are doing, where tax dollars are going, and how the government is handling various issues. We can’t lead effectively if we don’t have the people’s trust.
City Council can improve public trust by encouraging public discussion on major issues and projects in their districts.
Dr. Derrick Donnell
Transparency in city government demands that all information regarding public business and how taxpayer money is being spent, be readily available and easily understood. Elected officials have an obligation of service and accountability to all citizens. I fully embrace and support this ideology. I have not worked closely enough with city administration to fairly assign them a grade. I would assign the grade of C to the current city council. To improve this grade, I would champion efforts to expand opportunities in which we can obtain more feedback from the community by way of web-based surveys and online chat sessions.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, city-wide elections meaning all registered voters within the city may cast a ballot in each race.