Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Best Practices - Could Dunwoody be influencing Decatur?

Best practices - as a new city with little administrative history, the City of Dunwoody has the ability to review what our neighboring cities are doing and replicate it without making the mistakes that they may have made. I have discussed the City of Decatur several times in the past and I believe that they have a number of programs, policies and procedures for their residents that we should be putting into place here in Dunwoody.

Decatur is a great place to work and someday retire. The government fosters a vibrant business community yet it has a volunteer coordinator which focuses the energy of thousands of hours of donated skills to where they are needed to benefit the community at large. The Mayor and City Departments blog openly about what is going on in the city. Their Active Living Department is receiving an award from Peds for their actions in promoting Safe Routes to Schools for the children of Decatur, while we are just thinking of doing the same. There is a long term and ongoing commitment to city sustainability in Decatur and it is my goal that Dunwoody will soon have a committee that will lead us to doing the same.

Decatur has a lot going for it and there is much we can learn from them and others but sometimes best practices can also be found from the new kid on the block who has never learned the bad habits to begin with. The Decatur Metro blog, an independent voice in an independent city, reports that due to feedback given on their site, the City of Decatur has just started posting all relevant documents to city commission meetings on their website prior to the actual meeting taking place.

Has someone in Decatur noticed that this site dedicated to all things Dunwoody has done the exact same thing from day one of existence and will continue to do so until the City of Dunwoody website can be counted on to do the same? Did the residents of Decatur hear that every Dunwoody City Council meeting is recorded and available to the community the following morning on the internet? Maybe it was the fact that the City was able to pass an alcohol ordinance that was negotiated openly with both the residents and the business community providing input whereby each major revision of the document was available online for all to see?

Best practices can be found in many places and I again tip my hat to the City of Decatur to being able to recognize that fact and implement accordingly.


Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell said...

You have been justly praised for your commitment to transparency in government. Even before we had one. But now we do and it is time for our government to take your example and expand upon it.

We have a Dunwoody website, but it falls far short of what you have done with your money and your blog. This has to change.

We deserve transparency. All meetings should be posted, whether face to face or virtual. The Mayor and Council should be given official means to communicate and all communications should be recorded and directly available w/o an open records request. We need access to all documents that the Mayor and Council use to make their decisions as well as the documents that capture those decisions.

For example, you say the new alcohol ordinance includes input from the business community. Where can I download the minutes of those meetings, the emails, recordings of all conversations? Were these restricted to formal Council meetings (which you generally post--thanks again) or were they effectively clandestine "working sessions" reminiscent of the Task Forces. Why were the drafts, from day one, not posted on the official Dunwoody website?

If this sounds like some citizens want to look over your shoulder examining everything you do, you're right. And why not? Isn't that what transparency is all about? Is there something the Mayor and Council are doing they don't want us to know about? Wasn't transparency a plank in the platform of almost all candidates? Had you not been elected, wouldn't you want this? Isn't the City of Dunwoody supposed to be better, in every way, than DeKalb County?

Bob Fiscella said...

I think the council should be commended for getting the business community involved in writing the new alcohol ordinance. However, I know two businesses affected most by the new ordinance - and neither where invited to the table. I wish I knew why.