The first task of government is to hear, understand, and respond to people's concerns and priorities. As I have gone door to door (to over 2,000 residents' homes), I have heard over and over that people do not fully trust local government. I want to restore that trust. Fortunately, I see a number of significant but straightforward steps we can take to improve local government accountability:
- Institute a performance auditor
- Meaningful performance reviews for the City Manager
- Better budget transparency
- Additional measures to address police use of force
- New digital tools for citizen engagement
Many cities have a performance auditor. Some are elected, some are appointed, but all are independent. In Eugene, that would mean reporting directly to council, not the City Manager. When Eugene city council appointed a citizen group to conduct a review of our city charter in 2002, the Charter Review Committee Report recommended a performance auditor. We should revisit, update, and follow that advice.
A performance auditor examines the effectiveness of city programs and spending, especially in light of policy priorities and government best practices elsewhere. If we stray from good performance, and auditor can document that performance and publish results for Council and the public. Lane County currently has a performance auditor.
Just as we must audit City programs and spending, we must conduct reviews of employee performance. Meaningful and public annual performance reviews for the City Manager – the most important employee, and the one who reports to council – must become the norm. We must hold the City Manager accountable for progress toward major policy objectives, and for clearly turning the city council's intent into action. This progress or lack thereof must be made clear to councilors and to the general public.
I have already done work for better City budget transparency. I have pushed for clearer connections between our spending and the policy objectives of our city council. Right now, it's really hard to tell how the money we spend advances our key objectives – such as more livable neighborhoods, a safer transportation system, and meaningful action on climate change. Additionally, as a member of the City's Budget Committee, I am working with budget staff to ensure that the City's new new software provides us additional insight into our spending.
Unaccountable police use of force has become a problem nationally. Fortunately, Eugene's police department performs well compared to most other police departments, in large part because we have a police auditor and a Civilian Review Board as crucial mechanisms of accountability and transparency. Still, there is much more we can do, as recent incidents have demonstrated. If elected, I will ask for a review of the recommendations of Campaign Zero, a movement to end police violence, to determine which measures are relevant to and feasible in Eugene.
We are long overdue for new digital tools for citizen engagement. Many cities are now using websites, social media, mobile applications and other IT tools for constituent relations, public information, and outreach to neighborhoods. Our residents and neighborhoods want more of a voice, and our city government must do a better job of communicating outside of itself. It is time for us to examine best practices elsewhere and deploy some new tools for democracy.