Working Together To Govern Our City Well
Voting and elections are just the beginning of the democratic process. All of us must work together to govern our city well. Those who serve in public office have a responsibility to bridge the divide between government and its constituents. We must also be accountable for the expenditure of government funds and strive to have transparency over how taxpayer monies are used.
Citizen engagement has been a rich part of our democratic tradition, yet here in Worcester many residents feel shut out of the civic process. Despite organized efforts to get citizens involved in public decision-making, many feel that their voices are not heard. Our community suffers because of this growing sense of isolation among city residents. Lack of public accountability, which requires citizen participation, can lead to a deep mistrust of municipal government. This must change.
Public officials need to be effective stewards of our City’s resources, taking care to build up strong schools, support safe and liveable neighbourhoods, and promote economic and community development. But government cannot do this work alone. We must create pathways for citizen engagement where solving public problems becomes our collective responsibility. Together we can respond to the challenges we face here in Worcester. In this first year, I believe that we have made great progress in creating a new level of engagement with the community and providing greater accountability for the public resources.
Mayors Open Office Hours: In the first year, the Mayor held more than 35 open office hours on Tuesday evenings from 4:30 to 6:15 PM where more than 300 citizens attended to discuss issues and concerns with the Mayor. This year the Mayor will hold open office hours on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at City Hall. He will also hold monthly Mayors Night Out at community centers across the city.
Mayors Walks: The Mayor held five Mayor’s Neighborhood Walks in 2010. The Neighborhood Walks were held in the Columbus Park, Oak Hill, Main South, Green Island, and Great Brook Valley Neighborhoods. The Mayor brought together elected officials and city administrators for the walks with local residents and community leaders. The walks allow for community leaders and residents to share the great things that are happening in their Neighborhood and to share with elected and city official particular issues that need to be addressed. The Mayor will resume the Neighborhood Walks in the spring of 2011.
Mayor’s Nights Out: Over the first year the Mayor held a series of Mayor’s Nights Out at community and neighbourhood centers to meet with residents and youth to provide updates on our city government and schools and to hear from residents about their ideas and concerns
Towing Contract: In response to resident concerns about poor levels of service and questions about the city’s decision to not re-bid the city towing contract for five years in a row; the Mayor and the City Council led efforts to put this contract back out to public bid. As a result, the city will receive over $100,000 over the next five years. These efforts led to incorporating into the new contract the need for accessible customer service and the requirement that the towing companies must accept checks and credit cards along with cash.
Mayors Immigrant & Refugee Roundtable: Worcester is one of the most diverse cities in the nation and the Mayor believes that this diversity is a great strength. In order to better support our immigrant and refugee communities in Worcester, the Mayor has convened a Refugee & Immigrant Roundtable. This group brings today’s leaders from different immigrant and refugee communities to share information and provide networking opportunities.
Constituent Services: The Mayor’s Office responded to more than 700 constituency issues and requests throughout 2010. Constituents contacted the Mayor and his staff, by phone or in-person at the office, about issues dealing with City services, infrastructure, and more. The office will continue to hear and work to resolve constituency requests in the future, helping to ensure the City Government is responsive and serving its residents to its utmost ability.
Civic Academy: The Civic Academy is a joint project between the Mayor’s office and the leadership of the Worcester County Courthouse. In an effort to build up a more civic literate community, the Mayor and Judges from the Worcester County Courthouse will be holding a four session Civic Academy in the late spring of 2011.