Sunday, March 04, 2007

Challenge - Sheila's idea's - continued from below.

Point's 2 and 3 from comment below, since they are almost the same thing -
Carbondale residents are concerned about how our city money is being spent. As private individuals we pay close attention to how we use our own money. The city should steward its resources in the same way.

Balanced budgets are, again, a tremendously important issue. While no one claims that Brad *hasn't* balanced the budget, I do believe she is suggesting that she disagrees with how he spends money in the budget. There are at least three specific examples of ways she would spend differently: 1) she would not have paid such an over-price on the American Tap property (implying she won't do something similar in the future), 2) cutting back on the road-paving program (hardly a popular stand, but one motivated by a concern for whether the roads need it), and 3) re-structuring the Carbondale Clean-Up so that it is both sustainable (which it is not under the way Brad has proposed it; even he has said as much) and so that the money is spent on people who need it rather than landlords and able-bodied citizens.

My goal is to provide as much public access to city records as is possible. Some matters, like personnel decisions, will still have to be closed, but most business should be conducted out in the open. If there is a question as to whether or not a matter should be discussed in public, I will favor openness.

OK, I admit "process issues" are not sexy. However, openness and style of governance are tremendously important to citizens, especially in a community as small as ours. I think that Sheila has a very clear record of wanting to increase participation in the political process and, at a minimum, making it easier for citizens to remain informed about what's going on. At the Smoke-Free debate, Brad wanted to shut debate down after three (or maybe three-per-side, I don't recall) people had a chance to speak. The council chambers were packed; what is the purpose of limiting debate in such a circumstance? Yes, it is more efficient but I strongly doubt any American democrat ever cared about efficiciency -- governing by the people is almost by default going to be inefficient. Toward this end, she has proposed some specific proposals such as clarifying the rules under which the minutes of meetings are disclosed to the public, making city records and council agendas available via the internet, and broadcasting a wider array of city meetings. Sexy? No. Important? Yes, if you care about openness in government.
I think there are two issues being discussed here, first does Carbondale have a fair and open government; second is the money that Carbondale spends in agreement with local wants and needs.

A little history about Carbondale city government, 4 years ago we voted to increase the number of city council members from 5 to 7. The real advantage of this increase was to allow city council members to have a discussion outside of the city council meetings. We choose to do this as voters, because the city council was having trouble getting things done. It is a good news and bad news kind of thing. The bad news is there is more discussed outside of the publicly recorded and broad cast council meetings. The good news is that for a variety of reasons, this has been a more productive city government the last 4 years.

Now broadcasting more city meetings is something that Brad has done. Sheila has been on the city council for 4 years, if she wanted to do more then Brad has already added, it would have been easy to do that at any point. This seems like something that Brad has done and Sheila is nitpicking about.

What I don't like about Sheila angle on this is that she only works for the city about 10 or 20 hours a week. Much of that is in meetings and reviewing documents. She simply isn't there at city hall doing the work. What she is suggesting that Carbondale go back to the city manager and Neil Dillard form of government we had for so long. No decision for weeks at a time for critical matters. No leadership, no buck stops here, no results.

If you are going to work 10 or 20 hours a week, you are going to have to act as a Board of Directors do in business. You get to approve the decisions of the people doing the work and nothing else. You get to suggest ideas and get your two cents into the agenda of the organization too. Maybe if there is a potential flood or an unexpected expense that is 10% of the yearly budget, you will be consulted on the fly. Otherwise, you vote on stuff and get excluded from a whole bunch of day to day stuff. Now that I have written this, this is exactly how our part time city council works.

Getting into what programs the city should and shouldn't fund. I don't understand what Sheila is complaining about. Brad proposed the programs and got them passed by a majority of the council. All of these things were put on the agenda, discussed in the papers, debated in the council meeting and then passed. Her complaint list seems more like second guessing from someone who put almost nothing on the agenda for 4 years.

Some things that Brad thought of, got approved by the council and implemented have worked great. Some other things didn't work as well, but where worth a shot. That is the way programs work, you try things and then fine tune as you learn more.

I think there was a valid complaint about the no smoking laws not passing. If Steven Haynes had voted, or if Chris Whisman had not voted, the law would be passed and that would be that. There are a bunch of things that have been proposed by Brad and then defeated. I can remember there was something that I thought even Joel was right about to oppose Brad's idea. Doesn't happen often that Joel doesn't oppose Brad and that Joel is right. :) I guess that a whole bunch of public discussion on the no smoking law did produced results, Michael Heck told the council members that they shouldn't vote and one of them didn't. The good news is there are already laws about how much public commentary and in this case they worked. Do you really want to do the US Senate debate methods in the City Council chamber? A good way to get nothing done, if a small faction decides to get frisky. Does this seem like another law that doesn't need fixing? The city council has to vote to stop discussion right?

I never thought I would see the day when a bunch of liberals, would be attacking someone, for having a summer work program, for mostly poor youth in their city (check it out 3 commas, a personal best!). How much does it cost to have those kids on the streets with nothing to do, except getting into trouble?

The same group seems to oppose the summer work program, supports the Carbondale Park District's future $2M pool and/or $6M water park (don't forget the $50k to $500k per year operating loss, depending on which one). The reason we are building an outdoor pool, to keep the children off the street and give them something to do in the summer. Aren't they about the same thing?

I have written in the past that Sheila's ideas seem to be not interesting, a complaint about what Brad has accomplished or an extension of Brad's current programs. This trifecta of ideas (campaign fund raising at $50, how the money is spent and city records) are all a smear campaign against our effective mayor. I will give you that if you squint your eyes hard, there is merit to each. But mostly, the rules we have work fine for a number of reasons (one of which is there is so little to embezzel, it isn't worth your time).

It is interesting to watch a smear campaign. Sheila does nothing as a city council member, makes no suggestions, has nothing of substance appear on the city council agenda, has no program even proposed. Why didn't she do anything over the last 4 years? I guess she was keeping her powder dry for her run for mayor. Now she shows up with a campaign strategy implying the incumbent is dirty, has no details to offer, and has no track record because she hasn't done anything thus far. This is like watching a Senator running for President as an outsider (read John Kerry).

I have no real problem if someone votes for Sheila because she is a Democrat, a bike rider, a good person, Paul Simon's daughter, a good mother, or a good law professor. It is OK with me if you vote for Sheila because you don't like Brad. Please don't tell me you are going to vote for Sheila because of the quality of her work or campaign platform as compared to Brad. When judging on accomplishments (or lack of them) representing Carbondale or likelihood of future accomplishments, Brad wins in a walk.

Of course, your comments are welcome.

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