City Council meetings over the past few years often include questions and challenges about transparency when it comes to the various issues and decisions that go through City Hall. Some believe that the city has gone to great lengths to try to communicate effectively with the public. Others think that much more can be done to try to involve citizens in the process.
So where do the candidates stand on this issue?
This is the fourth of a five-part series of questions and answers to be published this week at PhilomathNews.com. Philomath mayoral candidates are incumbent Chas Jones and challenger Lawrence Johnson.
For more information, the Benton County Elections Office uploaded each candidate’s filing form. Information on the forms include details on occupation, educational background and prior governmental experience. Click here for Jones. Click here for Johnson.
In addition, the Benton County Voters’ Pamphlet is available here.
This is the fourth of five questions asked of the candidates. Each candidate was allowed no more than 200 words for each individual answer with no exceptions. Answers were edited only for punctuation and typos and to conform to newspaper style guidelines (abbreviations, capitalization, etc.).
City government transparency concerns seem to occasionally surface. Do you believe transparency is an issue? If so, what would you do to fix it? If not, what do you think the city is doing that’s working?
JONES: In my opinion, the narrative of a lack of transparency in Philomath is a disingenuous effort by a vocal minority of folks attempting to exert an undue influence on city business. The city staff and our City Council have prioritized providing meaningful and transparent community engagement opportunities for many aspects of city governance.
Some folks believe that the City Council should micromanage city staff and be heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the city. I do not share this viewpoint. Our staff have decades of professional experience and they know their crafts very well. Our city charter established a city manager/council form of government, in which councilors are elected to shape policy and the city manager and their staff is hired to implement the policies established by the City Council. I fully embrace the philosophy behind this system, which works well for thousands of cities across the U.S. and it works well in Philomath. Philomath is in great hands, and we are doing amazing things. Our residents have a lot to be proud of.
JOHNSON: Transparency is an issue. Transparency means that access to any and all relevant transactions are subject to review by the City Council and citizens. There was a debate at the September council public meeting relating to preservation of records from city meetings, council, planning, park advisory, police advisory and any other department meeting where state law dictates records be kept. There should be no debate on record keeping. All records should be recorded and kept, both audio and video. New technology makes archiving these records much less expensive than in the past. I do not believe that cost is an issue when keeping public records open for review at a later date. A prime example is how many of the records from all the Millpond processes were kept for review?
Philomath taxpayers are entitled to know where their money is spent and what actions their city government is taking.
Coming Friday: Many in the community believe that the candidates have associated themselves with certain other candidates whether it’s through advertising, yard signs or other means. What are your thoughts on these perceived alliances, including the pros and cons of this election strategy?