I was glad to see today's article about the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns` "If I Were Mayor, I Would..." contest (PDF link on that last one). Such things can only improve the quality of dialogue about what we want for our communities. Local elementary school student Ross Mathews took the prize in the statewide contest for his essay; his plan focused on a few key areas: 1) making sure children in Richmond had better funding for school books and educational field trips, 2) adding more staple businesses to the West side of Richmond to save gas for those living there, 3) decreasing poverty through charitable giving events, and 4) keep Richmond clean so it looks nicer. Hats off to Ross for thinking beyond his years and looking selflessly at the big picture. If only mayoral elections took place on the true merits of such plans alone.
I haven't yet received my entry form for the "If I Were Mayor" essay contest to be held amongst myself and other local adult citizens, but in the greatest tradition of blogging, I shall now commence to ramble on regarding something about which no one has asked me:
If I were Mayor, I would...
- ...create and refine (with significant input from citizens) a list of concrete goals (and methods for achieving them) for my time in office. They would be ambitious and far-reaching, but achievable. While they would closely mirror other plans already in place (a City-wide comprehensive plan, for example), they would guide my personal decision making in the Mayor's office, and provide a quantitative metric to which voters could hold me accountable.
- ...have regular public meetings with the citizens of Richmond so I could listen to their interests, concerns, needs, and hopes for the City. These meetings would be broadcast on WCTV and transcripts would be available on the City website. I would take questions submitted in advance via postal mail or e-mail from those who couldn't attend the meetings.
- ...move my office desk into an open area where I could sit alongside the heads of the major departments in my administration as we tended to the city's business throughout the day. My work would be done out in the open for all to see, and I would be able to stay in close touch with the quality of work being done by my fellow civic administrators.
- ...find ways for myself, my staff and other interested community members to have regular conversations about the politics of power and privilege in our community. Who has power and how are they using it? How are the dynamics of power and privilege helping our community, and how are they hurting it? Who is disempowered, and why? What segments of our population are under-served or left behind by our current systems of governing? What can we do better with this information in hand?
- ...write a weekly guest column in the local newspaper updating readers on events and items of interest for the week from the Mayor's perspective, and perhaps responding to questions received from citizens during the week.
- ...have a regular call-in show on a local radio station, allowing citizens to again engage me about their questions and concerns and hopes for the City.
- ...hold regular workshops that would help interested citizens become more involved in their local government and local neighborhood communities. These would be facilitated by entities already expert at such things, and would eventually be turned into course material reusable by other city governments and/or future Richmond Mayoral administrations.
- ...conduct thorough and regular budgetary review sessions with experts from the City and from the public, so that systems of spending and revenue generation were scrutinized and evaluated for possible inefficiencies or errors. I would create documentation for the public that explained the City's budget and why it is set up the way it is, and then create multiple channels for soliciting feedback for improvements
- ...see what the small business community in Richmond needs to thrive. What tools, what resources, what public exposure, what conversations need to happen? What barriers are in place and who is putting/keeping them there? What do you need from your city so that you can continue being the lifeblood of our community?
- ...create systems of knowledge documentation and learning whereby turnover in City staff (either within my administration or between my administration and the next) would have minimal impact on the important work to be done in our community. This would include financial management, information about what kinds of staffing structure and administrative processes are most efficient (and which ones don't work at all), and just general "things to know" that would let anyone coming into an existing position take advantage of the work done before them.
- ...update my City's website so that the list of things to do in Richmond wasn't so narrow, and so it was much more standards compliant and search engine friendly.
Those are a few things that come to mind for me. What would you do?