By Bill Oakey, November 3, 2022
This is Part 2 of this blog’s endorsement of Linda Guerrero for City Council, District 9. In my interview with her, I learned that she wants to fix many of the longstanding problems at City Hall. She supports reforms that some of us have been clamoring for, as far back as the 1980’s.
Linda’s Reform Agenda Starts With Public Engagement
i asked Linda how she felt about public engagement at City Council meetings. Did she support much better clarity on when the public can expect to be heard at public hearings. And would she reform the chaos that keeps people in wheelchairs and parents with small children outside, waiting for hours to speak on an agenda item. Her response was crystal clear. “Absolutely. I am one of those people!” She has been there, done that, and she’s ready for a change. She supports the Austin Neighborhood Council’s recent public engagement resolution. And, she is interested in my City Council public engagement proposal, that was endorsed by the American-Statesman editorial board on January 29, 1988. That proposal will see its 35th anniversary, shortly after Linda is sworn in, if we can get her elected. Linda also told me that she wants to see more opportunities for citizens to speak to the Council, from the comfort of their homes over Zoom.
Transparency Is a Cornerstone of Linda’s Reform Plans
Lack of transparency is a persistent, nagging problem at City Hall. The City has been dragged into court, only to lose, on more than one occasion, for not complying with all the requirements for posting agenda items and providing proper backup materials. Citizens are often given vague or fuzzy answers to public information requests, and are often met with frustrating delays. We long for the good old days, when every mailing envelope from City Hall carried the slogan, “Austin, the Friendly City.” Linda has seen transparency issues, while serving on several City Boards and Commissions. She told me that she would like to see much better transparency at all levels of the City administration.
We Can Count On Linda to Hold City Officials Accountable
Most City employees are genuinely passionate about their jobs, and they try to do their very best to help the City Council and the public. But it’s in the nature of a bureaucracy for things to slip through the cracks. City resolutions often carry requirements for things to be done by a specified date. Unfortunately, there is no system in place for citizens to easily find previously passed ordinances and resolutions.
In the worst case scenario, citizens will triumphantly depart City Council Chambers, after getting a hard-fought resolution passed. Let’s call it Resolution X. Then, a year or two later, the same problem that prompted Resolution X pops up again. The City Council approves an action that was supposed to be forbidden under that resolution. Why? Because the resolution was never officially acted upon, or else its existence was forgotten. There is no reliable tracking or enforcement system. In the absence of organization, disorganization prevails.
In 2015, I wrote a blog piece called, What Happens When “The City Manager Is Directed To,” And He Doesn’t? Those explicitly worded directives are printed on many resolutions, and they “must be” carried out by a certain prescribed deadline. But if that date comes and goes, and no response ever comes, does anybody at City Hall remember it and follow up? Well, sometimes…or…sometimes maybe not. That little thing called politics can get in the way. Or else it can simply happen as a result of disorganization. Either way, Linda told me that she wants to see ordinances and resolutions better cataloged, and have tracking and enforcement measures put in place for those funny, familiar, forgotten directives.
Linda is aware that some of these reforms will come with a price tag. Staff time would be required to carry them out. And, of course, she would need majority votes on the City Council to get them adopted. But a nice slice of hope is much better than the status quo. Midnight should be a time for hoot owls and prowling coyotes. Citizens should not be expected to join them on their way home, after endless hours of waiting at City Hall. That’s the way I felt about it, back in 1988. Maybe Linda can finally fix it in 2023.
Senior Discounts – Linda Can Deliver Real Affordability Relief!
Linda won’t be sitting around at City Hall, wondering what to do. She is ready to hit the ground running. She likes my proposal for a broad range of senior discounts, on various City and City-related services. It’s too soon for her to know which ones are the most feasible, and what the budgetary impact might be. But she assured me that she wants to explore this exciting opportunity to help older folks, living on fixed incomes. Bravo for Linda! She will stand by us, if we can put her on the dais! Click here to read Part 1 of my endorsement, and see links to volunteer and donate.
A Closing Poem
If you have any friends who are District 9 voters
Give them some news that will rev up their motors
Tell them that Linda is the candidate of choice
She is the one who will lift up their voice
We need a problem-solver who will get things done
Your pitch for Linda will deliver a home run
For transparency, accountability and public engagement
It’s well worth your time to pound the pavement
As the campaign winds down in the final days
We must support Linda in all kinds of ways
Imagine what she could do for City Hall
With long-overdue reforms for once and for all!
A Very Dated and Hilarious 1943 Chamber of Commerce Video
”Austin, the Friendly City” – The fun starts after the opening roll of scrolling inscriptions.