Restoring Trust in Government
One of our challenges is restoring trust in our government. I believe that government can and should be a force for good in people’s lives, and those in government need to set an example of ethical behavior.
City Council Reform
Common Cause has put forth a number of suggestions meant to reform how business is conducted in the City Council. I have adopted several of those recommendations into my platform, including:
Fast-tracking majority supported bills, to ensure that bills with support in the Council are able to be debated and voted on in a timely way, rather than languishing in committee.
Eliminating member items, which allow Council Members to dole out discretionary funds to groups in their districts. Funding for community groups should be based on a set of objective criteria, and while Council Members should certainly have input in the process, leaving sole discretion of disbursement to a Council Member only increases the possibility of favoritism or corruption.
Developing a clear sexual harassment policy. The Council must work with experts and advocates to create a policy that centers victims, and should make sure that this policy is communicated to Council Members, staff members and the public. Further, there should be clear consequences for violation of the policy. The fate of a Council Member found to have violated the policy should not be solely at the discretion of their colleagues.
Empowering Participatory Budget Unit. While some Council Members have embraced Participatory Budgeting, which allows community members to have input into how 1 million dollars of city money is spent, others choose not to participate, which limits the program’s effectiveness. This is due, in part, to lack of support and resources from the city, which places more of a burden on the CM’s staff. By empowering the Participatory Budget Unit and providing the resources necessary, we can ensure that the program is successful throughout the city.
Additionally, I would like to see more transparency in the legislative process. Often, changes to bills are made behind closed doors, with input from special interests and without adequate public comment. In many cases, the final language of a bill is not made public until just before a bill is to be voted on, which only further erodes whatever trust people have in the process.
Board of Elections Reform
Trust in our elections is of utmost importance, especially in a time when faith in the process is being undermined at every turn, both domestically and internationally. To that end, we must overhaul our city’s Board of Elections.
Remove all partisanship from the administration of the city’s elections. This would require a constitutional amendment, since the Board of Elections structure is mandated by the state constitution.
Merge the Board of Elections with the Campaign Finance Board, which administers the city’s matching funds program, and is not confined by the rules that govern the BOE. Within constitutional constraints, power should be shifted from the BOE to the CFB.
Establish clear requirements for Board of Elections Commissioners. While these Commissioners are appointed by the county parties, establishing minimum requirements would ensure that all of the Commissioners are qualified.
It is vitally important that the next generation of leaders receive a proper civics education. This includes an understanding of the city’s legislative process, its leadership structure, and direct experience in working with local elected officials. Students should have the option to earn a “seal of civic readiness” as one way to complete their diploma requirements. We should also expand the high school poll worker program, to give students an opportunity to have direct experience with elections, and also earn extra money.