Involving more citizens of Decatur in the decision-making process
Involving more citizens in the decision-making process will require a combination of greater civic engagement by the citizens and reform of the Decatur City Council. The most important step citizens can take is to vote. In almost every contested election, there are significant policy differences among the candidates and each voter has the right and responsibility to determine who is the best candidate.
1) Elect city council members that see their role as the leader of the legislative body for the City of Decatur (as I do). Many issues that are most important to citizens such as population decline, high unemployment, low median incomes, and high poverty are not substantively discussed by the council. Moreover, critical aspects of the neighborhood revitalization initiative have gone undiscussed since its launch. As a council member, I will ensure that issues most important to the community receive fair deliberation.
2) Elect city council members that will provide an opportunity for minority voices to be heard (as I will). In April 2017, at a City Council meeting preceding my swearing in, the council voted to approve a process making it more difficult for items to be placed on the council agenda. Under the current system, agenda items require the consent of the Mayor, City Manager, or 4 of the 6 remaining council members. The effect of this policy has been to reduce the ability of minority voices to be heard and for important issues to be discussed. As a member of the council, I will ensure that minority voices will be heard by putting items of concern on the agenda.
3) Increase the accessibility and transparency of council members. As of May 2019, I am the only council member who provides their cell phone number on the city’s website, a practice that is common place with county board members. This gives the appearance that some council members are not readily accessible to the public. As a council member, you will continue to be able to reach me at 217-358-5003.
4) Offer longer periods of notice to the public when changing city codes and voting on decisions that most impact citizens. Currently, the City Council receives its agenda on a Thursday afternoon for votes on Monday evenings. Two full business days does not provide enough time to inform constituents about votes that impact them, nor is it enough time for constituents to fully understand the implications of the votes or to respond to questions.
5) Elect members of the city council who are strong proponents for making correspondence among the Mayor, City Council members, and City Manager freely available to the general public (except in cases such as litigation), and who will make themselves available to local news outlets.
While I cannot promise that Decatur City Council meetings will be standing-room only and become must-see TV, I can say that the steps above can put the citizens of Decatur first in the decision-making process.