Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Call for Sammarone to Withdraw from the Council President's Race and My Responses to an Election Questionnaire

An article published today from The News Outlet.
Sammarone should let someone else take reins of city council

Candidates are often asked to reply to Election Questionnaires. 
Here are some of my responses to a recent Questionnaire.

 Why are you seeking the office you are running for at this time?

I have lived in Youngstown for more than 20 years and have witnessed an ever-widening gap in effective communication between citizens and our local government. I find this problematic, as communities need a vitalized citizenry. If those elected to positions of power in the city fail to listen to the folks who have elected them, the citizens become frustrated and become apathetic about revitalizing the city. I know this frustration first hand. I've attended numerous Council meetings where elected officials sat slouched in their chairs or distracted on their cell phones rather than listening to the person standing at the podium, speaking about an issue of concern. This lack of engagement extends even to the way many departments in city hall respond to phone calls and inquiries from citizens. If you call, you get a dull hello. There's a lack of courtesy, genuine interest and deep listening. This may be the result of the work culture created by those in current leadership positions. I believe that not only is it important to engage citizens in participatory democracy but also to engage city employees and create a positive culture for everyone who spends their days serving the public.

In addition, I chose to run because it came to my attention in early January 2013 that only one person was running for the position of Council President. I believe that the failure of people to step up and run for public office is merely a reflection of the problems with communication and culture.  I came to understand that to “walk my talk” it would be necessary to run for this office, so that a clear choice would be available for citizens on election day.  Furthermore, I was appalled that the person who was running unopposed was running in order to “spend more time with his grandchildren”.  Although it is admirable to want to spend time with family, running for a public office should not serve as a means to do this. A public official should be elected for one reason only, to serve the citizens.

What will you do to improve the quality of life in your respective jurisdiction?

The City Charter describes the role of Council President as overseeing the public meetings and voting in a tie-breaker if needed. In order to responsibly serve as a "tie-breaker vote" per se, I believe it would be my role and responsibility to make myself aware of not only the issues the council is concerned with, but also to reach out to the community by attending neighborhood group meetings and other citizen-based organizational meetings in order to hear what the concerns of the citizens are about the issues.  I see the role of Council President as a unique one, in that it encourages representation of citizens from all sides of town.  By meeting with people on all sides of town, this will serve a two-fold purpose; first it will provide me with increased knowledge about issues and two; it will allow me to serve as the link between citizens and the government officials who are elected to serve them.  In addition, if elected it would be my goal to improve access to council meetings, as well as to host regular public forums. I am a firm believer in transparency in government, and believe that the more discussion about issues the better. It is my hope to support and encourage this kind of discussion about issues vital to the health and welfare of Youngstown citizens. Through civil and respectful dialogue and discussion, these actions can be put into practice to improve the quality of life for ALL the citizens of Youngstown.

What qualifications and experience demonstrates your ability to be elected to the office which you are seeking?

My ability to listen to and engage with people from all backgrounds and opinions is an asset for public service. My patience, persistence and “attitude of action” enhance my ability to get things done. My integrity and non-combative nature allow me to communicate effectively.  I have been a teacher for over 20 years, teaching students from preschool to adulthood in both formal and informal environments. I am a lifelong learner and an active citizen of Youngstown, committed to helping improve the quality of life for ALL citizens of Youngstown.

If elected, what will be your three priorities and why?

1. The job of Council President is primarily one of facilitator. If elected I will work to improve communication, collaboration and efficiency within city council itself as well as between city departments.  I will do this by listening to employees concerns and suggestions for improvement and dialoguing with them to find solutions to put into practice. We must change the culture within City Hall so that all employees feel respected and part of a government that works to improve the quality of life for themselves and all citizens of Youngstown. A Human Resources Department is vital so that there is a place where people can formally voice their concerns without fear of retaliation or job loss.  

2. Improve communication between citizens and their government.  I envision my duty as Youngstown City Council President as connecting citizens with local government and encouraging communication and civil dialogue.  The President of Council oversees the public meetings and is charged with making sure that the public has a voice in the government that serves them. The public needs to engage and have a forum to ask questions, voice concerns and offer suggestions. I will work to improve communication in several areas: the scheduled public meetings, outreach at neighborhood and public meetings, and through the City website.

3. Work to build bridges between government, business, educational, public, non-profit, faith-based and other entities, so that our community can move forward and provide opportunities and services for all our citizens and together create a healthy and vibrant Youngstown community.  Sustainable positive change for Youngstown is possible only when our WHOLE community works together with respect, patience and persistence for the benefit of all the citizens of Youngstown.


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