Sunday, August 24, 2014

Engage

You probably have noticed that the city government is going to try to encourage citizens to be more engaged with their city government. They've announced programs they are calling COSA university, Citizens 101, and lunch and learn. Looks like they will be spending lots of time of on what city government does and how it does it. This is good and probably necessary. The stated goals are to train people for membership on the various boards and commissions the city has and to "cultivate some well informed community ambassadors for municipal government." I think they are overlooking something very critical to achieving these goals. Why should citizens even bother to engage?

I could get very long winded here but the simple answer is that people engage with the city government because of beliefs, values, and feelings. They engage because they are emotional, even passionate about community beliefs and values. They engage because they feel it's the right thing to do. They believe they can make a difference. Frequently, it's not very logical. It takes time, energy, and resources to be engaged. It won't pay the bills or put food on the table. Without an emotional connection it's hard for someone to justify the tradeoffs necessary to get engaged and stay engaged. Why be on a board or commission instead of working extra hours, going back to school, or volunteering in church?  People engage where they feel they can make a difference. They engage with others they trust to achieve shared goals.

Right now I think the city government has a couple problems getting citizens engaged. First off, they don't do a very good job explaining the why of most decisions. They will have slides and spreadsheets and dollars and cents comparisons. They will explain what they want to do and how they plan to do it often in great detail. They have problems when they try to explain the why. The why is what connects the what and how to community beliefs and values. That creates trust, which is key to engagement.

Our city government needs to work on building trust. They haven't been very good at it lately. We could start with the lack of transparency on "furnituregate." Yes, an internal investigation was done and it was finally sort of  made public but it hasn't been publicly discussed or explained. It falls far short of what was promised. Throw in how the Hickory Aquifer project, especially radiation and cost concerns, has been handled. Add in the hiccoughs with the new "smart" water meters. We could mention recent budget workshops which have had council and senior staff backs to citizens/observers. What about the budget workshop that was taken completely out of the county and no video recording was made. The public information office routinely records meetings, like CIP hearings etc., for broadcast later so why not this budget session?  I've heard it said this was because the citizens could be distracting. Truth is the citizens aren't a distraction, they are the reason you are there to do the budget. What about the disconnect between the planning and zoning process and the concerns of the residents close to Lamar elementary. The real issue was not zoning. It was growth and its affect on traffic and safety. And do we need to go into how the bidding and review process on the landfill contract damaged public trust? Do I need to say that failure to answer basic, obvious questions (like what are our current costs/expenses) that would not have given any side a competitive advantage made it look like the city was trying to hide something? I could go on but I don't need to because this is just a list of missed opportunities for the city government to build trust and connect with the citizens of San Angelo. There will be plenty more where these came from.

I know I said I wasn't going to get long winded. Sorry. Could have been worse. In the end I welcome the city managers attempt to get citizens engaged. Hope he and the rest of the city government will do what it takes to get positive citizen engagement. Frankly, I'm not optimistic. If I was a betting man like my friend Jim Ryan, I would probably place the odds at 10 to 1.



12 comments:

  1. Your public comment on this issue was spot on in City Council. The city promised to share the Furniture Fiasco investigation, but it took my request to get the unsigned, undated document.

    http://stateofthedivision.blogspot.com/2014/03/furniture-fiasco-citys-internal.html

    I've twice had the city go to the Attorney General to not share requested information with this member of the public. The city lost both times.

    I still miss the treasure trove of historical documents on the city's old website. I'm not sure how the city decides what documents are worth making available to the public and what not to provide until requested.

    Dealing with public information used to be drama and hassle free. Now I don't know what I'll get when I make a request.

    I'm continually surprised by what is not said at City Council. How does someone show a $2 million health insurance increase and no council member inquire as to the basis for this projection? The last meeting former City Councilmember Fredd Adams is now your peer on the Zoning Board of Adjustments. That appointment occurred with no discussion at all regarding Fredd's comeback from alcohol addiction and his third DWI, a third degree felony.

    http://stateofthedivision.blogspot.com/2014/08/fredd-adams-back-after-felony-conviction.html

    I believe in redemption and forgiveness, but I also believe in speaking to the elephant in the room. Council missed again their chance to show the public that it can talk about sensitive matters in an open and respectful manner.

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  2. Does not matter if he is a convicted felon and severed his sentence, if council approves Adams is good to go.

    I doubt they would council would approve someone convicted of a drug or violent crime.

    100 X as many people are injured, maimed or killed in work place "accidents" than by impaired drivers.

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  3. Just a couple points. First off technically Fredd Adams hasn't served his sentence until he gets off probation. Doesn't mean he shouldn't be involved with the city or serve on boards but he hasn't served his sentence until he's finally off paper.

    Second, it would be good if you could actually back up your claims on work place accidents vs. DWI accidents. There are good numbers on people killed in alcohol related automobile accidents and work place accidents. You can get pretty good statistics on people maimed or serious, reportable injuries. Doesn't come close to 100 x in either case. Made up statistics weaken your argument.

    There is a fundamental belief in the country of individual redemption, paying a debt to society, and second chances. Mr. Adams deserves that chance and consideration. So does anyone convicted of a crime that has paid their debt.

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    Replies
    1. First of all you have my blessing when you question statics. When I have time I will attempt to prove the information about work place accidents and impaired driving as you requested. I have not looked up the stats since we drove "MADD" out of San Anglo.

      As for Fredd Adams, if you check Texas state law you will find that a convicted felon does not have the right to vote until he/she has completed their sentence. To serve on city council or city boards or commissions you must be eligible to vote.

      San Angelo Code of Conduct: http://38.106.5.161/home/showdocument?id=398

      San Angelo Code of Ethics: http://38.106.5.161/home/showdocument?id=396

      Proof that Mr. Adams is still on probation. http://odysseypa.co.tom-green.tx.us/CaseDetail.aspx?CaseID=916657



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  4. ELECTION CODE

    TITLE 2. VOTER QUALIFICATIONS AND REGISTRATION

    CHAPTER 11. QUALIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR VOTING

    Sec. 11.001. ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE. (a) Except as otherwise provided by law, to be eligible to vote in an election in this state, a person must:
    (1) be a qualified voter as defined by Section 11.002 on the day the person offers to vote;
    (2) be a resident of the territory covered by the election for the office or measure on which the person desires to vote; and
    (3) satisfy all other requirements for voting prescribed by law for the particular election.
    (b) For a person who resides on property located in more than one territory described by Subsection (a)(2), the person shall choose in which territory the residence of the person is located.

    Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.
    Amended by:
    Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1107 (H.B. 2309), Sec. 1.06, eff. September 1, 2005.


    Sec. 11.002. QUALIFIED VOTER. (a) In this code, "qualified voter" means a person who:
    (1) is 18 years of age or older;
    (2) is a United States citizen;
    (3) has not been determined by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be:
    (A) totally mentally incapacitated; or
    (B) partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote;
    (4) has not been finally convicted of a felony or, if so convicted, has:
    (A) fully discharged the person's sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court; or
    (B) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote;
    (5) is a resident of this state; and
    (6) is a registered voter.
    (b) For purposes of Subsection (a)(4), a person is not considered to have been finally convicted of an offense for which the criminal proceedings are deferred without an adjudication of guilt.

    Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986. Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 54, Sec. 23, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 16, Sec. 6.01, eff. Aug. 26, 1991; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 916, Sec. 27, eff. Sept. 1, 1993; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 850, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
    Amended by:
    Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 614 (H.B. 417), Sec. 22, eff. September 1, 2007.
    Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 744 (H.B. 1226), Sec. 1, eff. June 17, 2011.

    Source: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/EL/htm/EL.11.htm

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  5. Anon, You are correct that Mr. Adams will not be eligible to vote until he gets off paper. No one disputes that. That is one of the reasons he had to resign from City Council as council members must "have the qualifications of electors herein." Those requirements don't apply to members of boards or commissions.

    The Code of Ordinances imposes no such requirements http://z2codes.franklinlegal.net/franklin/DocViewer.jsp?showset=sanangeloset&z2collection=sanangelo&docid=478#478

    The local government code http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/LG/htm/LG.211.htm section 211.008, doesn't lay out any additional requirements for ZBA membership. There is nothing in a local or state law that says a ZBA member must be eligible to vote.

    And on the statistics on DWI vs work place accidents, a quick search with any internet search engine shows that national statistics are readily available. For example the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html has numbers that say 10,228 people were killed in alcohol related accidents in 2010. In that same year the BLS http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfoi_revised10.pdf reported that there were 4,690 workplace fatalities. Not exactly the same as an "injured, maimed, or killed" statistic but it gives you a starting point.

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  6. I repeat:

    Texas ELECTION CODE

    TITLE 9. CANDIDATES

    CHAPTER 141. CANDIDACY FOR PUBLIC OFFICE GENERALLY

    SUBCHAPTER A. ELIGIBILITY FOR PUBLIC OFFICE

    Sec. 141.001. ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC OFFICE. (a) To be eligible to be a candidate for, or elected or appointed to, a public elective office in this state, a person must:

    4) have not been finally convicted of a felony from which the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities;

    http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/EL/htm/EL.141.htm


    Mr. Adams is required by Texas law to complete his probation before he can be legally appointed to a municipal board or commission.

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  7. Key phrase there is elective office. Boards and commissions are not elective offices. If it was an elective office he wouldn't be eligible after completing probation because that doesn't release him from all "the resulting disabilities." That would require a pardon, exoneration, or similar.

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    1. Mr. Turner your interpretation of the law is correct. I overlooked your point. However I believe it is unethical for him to serve in a public service position after a third conviction for impaired driving. One conviction is a mistake. Three convictions indicates a problem.

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    2. Thank you for your interest and honesty. I too have problems on the ethics of one serving on a board or commission while still under the control of the judicial system. Legally, it's up to the city council to make that call. All you or I can do is stand on the sidelines and kibitz.

      At the same time, Fredd has a tough road ahead. I have known a few people addicted to alcohol. Some have been family. He has made a better start to fight it than some I have seen. I wish him luck and will help him if I can.

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    3. It is disappointing San Angelo City Council will not put the Texas Street Maintenance Tax to the voters for a decision, however they are floating the idea of adding a $5 user charge for street maintenance to be added to our utility bills.

      Being that Bell Street leads to a sports complex money from the 4B sales tax can legally be used to improved and maintain Bell Street.

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  8. As for your blog, I say you should continue.

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