Link to full article here: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/01/bill-fosters-mayors-night-out-offer-access-but-not-much-transparency/
The most recent Mayor’s Night Out, hosted January 12, 2012 at the J.W. Cate Center provided unparalleled access to many departments represented by City Hall. Mayor Bill Fosterpromotes these events as an effort to improve access and transparency regarding city government. Indeed, bringing leadership representing many city departments out to the community provides extraordinary access, but I’m not so sure transparency is increased much. Not yet.
There are certain political buzz words that provide a sense of comfort among citizens. One of these is “transparency.” It’s a great word. It gives a sense of accountability—of a government laying all of its cards on the table for all to see everything exactly as they are. There would be no airbrushing and nothing hidden in a corner. Everything would be wide open for all to see. And with the Mayor’s Night Out events, that isn’t something I experienced there.
What these events do provide is fabulous access to Mayor Foster, to City Council, and many city departments were represented including Billing and Collections; Engineering, Water Resources and Capital Improvements; Housing and Community Development; School Programs; Police; Fire Rescue; Sanitation, Storm Water, Pavement and Traffic Operations; Zoning and Permitting; Transportation and Parking; Codes Compliance; Neighborhood Partnership, Libraries, Parks and Recreation; and Codes Compliance.
My View: If the citizens of St. Petersburg truly want transparency, they must participate in it. The access is most certainly there in a fashion that cannot be criticized. What is needed for true transparency to be realized is for citizens to go to these events and demand answers to tough questions. Require follow-up and reporting on issues that are of the greatest concern to citizens from the city. The citizens of St. Petersburg must take an active leadership role as both a partner and critic of their local government for transparency to be a reality. Mayor Foster, the City Council and city departments have certainly put themselves out there—It’s up to us to make transparency happen.