By Maher Maso
Sometimes, transparency is used as a word without follow-up action. The recent ethics violations of my opponent in regards to timely & accurately filling out his required ethics disclosure forms brings this issue to the forefront. The public’s right to know the details of the campaign is not an option, but by law, a requirement.
I have always prided myself on being an open book as should any public servant. We are elected officials in a representative democracy and the public has the right to transparency and access to information. Even as City Hall was being designed, it was important to create an environment where our residents knew they could have access to their government at any time. In fact, if you stand in front of City Hall, the design is such that you should be able to see through the building – this was by design to show that government should be transparent and I was proud to be part of that effort.
When I campaigned to be your Mayor in 2008, I promised that transparency and community involvement would be part of my priorities. Let’s take a look at some of what has taken place during my term in office:
1) I talked about the need for ethics reform in our community. That is why my first order of business after being elected was to create a citizen’s ethics review committee. I met with our city attorney, formulated an agenda item and brought forth recommendations for the committee to the Council. The result: revised/strengthened ethics reform.
2) Along with the ethics committee, I also promised a review of ethics code in the city charter, as well as an over-all charter review. I again followed through immediately and the result was a citizen’s committee to review the city charter and then a successful election by our citizens in the May elections.
3) Government Transparency – I supported and started several initiatives and Frisco was recently featured in a Dallas Morning News editorial titled “Frisco found a way to demystify government, so why can’t Washington?”
* The city checkbook was placed on-line for public review.
* We began live streaming of all council meetings as well as playback for our citizens “on-demand.” All minutes are quickly put online so our citizens can share information easier and quicker.
* I began “Coffee with the Mayor,” where our residents could share their thoughts in an informal setting. This initiative met with strong community support and involvement.
* Put in place a blog, Facebook, Twitter, newsletter and LinkedIn social media as additional ways to communicate. My day-to-day interactions on behalf of the city and in my role as Mayor are logged online for our residents to see, and to also send me their opinion on, often in real-time.
* Worked with our council and staff to modify the town hall meetings to reach a record number of residents and to proactively contact our residents to ask their opinion and for their comments.
* Worked and encouraged our communication department to begin a YouTube page as well as a Twitter account to communicate with our residents.
Have an open door policy – I have met with thousands of our residents in groups or one-on-one. At times, I would have 3-5 meetings per day to discuss any issue with our residents.
4) Resident involvement – I helped improve interaction with our citizens and found new ways to involve our community in government:
* I appointed the Mayor’s Ad-Hoc “Frisco Veterans Advisory Committee” to involve our heroes that helped give us the freedom to have elections and to be a free nation an opportunity to be part of our government. Besides advising me and also the city on important issues, they help the community with the Community Parade, Memorial Day and several other events. They also help reach out to our veterans to advise them of programs in the community, such as the veteran only classes at Collin College.
* I appointed the Mayor’s Complete Count Committee to help us in achieving a record-turnout in the U.S. Census. This has resulted in allowing us the opportunity to get additional grants for the police, fire and the overall community.
* Appointed the “Mayor’s Get-Fit-Frisco” committee to work with our planning and communications departments for a long-term approach to have the fittest city in the U.S.
* Appointed the “Mayor’s International Committee,” which is now the Frisco Sister Cities program, which helps us leverage our international presence to attract corporations, educational opportunities and sports.
* Expanded and improved the “Mayor’s Youth Council” and engaged even more teens from all of Frisco. Added LISD and Private Schools for Frisco Teens. With the Mayor’s Youth Council, programs for teens and elementary students were expanded.
* Continued and expanded my involvement with the Relay for Life cancer fundraiser and involved even more of our community in the effort.
* Supported the creation of the Zoning Advisory Committee made up of our residents and stakeholders to help us review our zoning guidelines.
This is just a small sampling of some of the actions I have taken as your Mayor. I have been an active member of our community long before becoming mayor, and believe it is paramount to involve our citizens in all aspects of our city government.
Maher Maso is mayor of Frisco.