As part of our continuing coverage on candidates for public office, we start our questions to the candidates for mayor in Westwood. Today we feature responses to the first question for the candidates. Today’s question is:
The comprehensive plan that is now in development has invited Westwood residents to participate in the planning process. How would you build on that inclusion once the plan is complete?
Getting the neighbors of Westwood to participate in deciding what their city looks like is my priority. Westwood’s comprehensive plan will represent the blueprint for many years to come and as such must represent the voice and views of its citizens.
This effort will be furthered through a number of work sessions starting with the steering committee and continuing through the planning commission and the governing body. The final document must be consistent with the public’s wishes.
As mayor, I would consider the people of Westwood my bosses. It’s important to me that we all decide what our city looks like together to ensure our family-friendly neighborhoods remain a valued and cherished part of Westwood.
There has no doubt been a loud unified voice that the City needs to do better; more new ways and more frequently. More frequent letters and postcards to homes need to be incorporated into a City wide effort to enhance outbound communication. Current communication efforts far and away exceed anything that was done prior to 2008 and anything done under my opponent’s 3 preceding terms. This includes weekly email blasts, social media to include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Nextdoor.com and other forms of electronic media. We also send quarterly print newsletters and occasional written letters from the Mayor. But we need to reach every house with more details. I plan a three pronged approach with the understanding that the plan needs to be continually evolving with improvements:
1. Accountability – Business and Community Affairs committee should be in charge of the PR/Communication initiative. In this way Westwood will have a central area that can be held accountable for the effort and will also be responsible for reporting on the efforts publicly each and every month at the City Council Meetings. They will work in tandem with the Mayor, department heads and block captains to create and deliver a strategy of timely communications to garner community input. This may include but won’t be limited to periodic meetings (by block), routine town hall meetings held at City Hall, organizing and recording surveys, etc.
2. Block Captain Initiative – the ‘block captains’, once a great intention has fallen flat and needs to be revitalized. We need to completely reconstruct the volunteer force and outline in great detail the objectives and expectations of each captain. They will need to be outfitted with the right tools to help serve the community block-by-block and serve as a liaison to the B&C Affairs committee. However they must be objective; without ulterior motive and available to all in their area of service. They should also contribute in the recruitment of their replacement so we can consistently manage transitions.
3. Mayor and Staff – The Mayor is ultimately responsible for the delivery of communication and the welcoming of community input. The City should be the one who initiates and pushes information to the public. If we are truly to have an ongoing dialog with meaningful content that is inclusive, everyone needs to be willing to set aside petty differences and ulterior motives. “Exclusive & Closed” behavior from City officials will not create a conducive environment that welcomes community outreach and input. Likewise “Torch & Pitchfork” behavior also must be left at the gate. Trust must be earned but fear and innuendo should be replaced with facts that figures.
Ultimately, we as a community all need to evolve. We must understand that Westwood still works as a representative government. The elected officials will make decisions they truly think are in the best interest of their constituents and the success of Westwood. We cannot make daily decisions by referendum, it makes for an inefficient an ineffective system, but we can construct a much more open and transparent culture that begins with trust and integrity; this is my commitment.
Tomorrow’s question: Woodside Village changes the complexion of housing in the city. What is the next step for Westwood in terms of its residential community?