I have appreciated the opportunity to communicate directly with our community in this monthly column.
It was the Times-Union’s editor’s suggestion to create “From the Mayor” to present issues and ideas from the city perspective. Since I started 18 months ago, I have had many positive comments from readers who appreciate hearing what is on my mind.
The examination of both sides of an issue is better served when open dialogue is promoted. That is my intention. I have worked hard to eliminate the notion that decisions are made behind closed doors with a group of “good old boys.” My goal for “From the Mayor …” is simply to share my vision as your mayor. I don’t expect that everyone will agree with me (my ever-vigilant council members often remind me of that!). In fact, I try to stimulate discussion and welcome “unfiltered feedback.”
As a three-term councilman, one thing I learned along the way was this: To “get it right,” you must give clarity to the issue through effective communication. Elected officials rely on public input to develop consensus. The community, on the other hand, relies on meetings and media to form opinions. Lack of information can understandably skew public perception.  Effective, accurate communication is a responsibility of our local elected officials.
In addition to print media, the City of Warsaw maintains a website (www.warsaw.in.gov) that I would invite everyone visit. Meeting agendas and minutes are available. There are biographies of elected officials and information about all municipal boards and commissions. There is also access to the municipal code. The website is updated frequently and is a great source of information for all city departments.
Last July, I discussed the sign ordinance in this column. After multiple very active, productive town hall meetings, the issues were addressed and the city passed a new sign ordinance that meets community standards.
Just this week, after a large amount of public input and almost a year’s worth of consideration, the council presented ordinance changes meant to improve patron, merchant and resident parking issues in our downtown.
In a few weeks, the group from Ball State will be back in town to present results from the community visioning exercise “Imagine Warsaw.” The lead architect has been involved in these type of projects for more than 20 years and informed me that they typically interview 25 to 30 citizens during these “charrettes,” but in Warsaw last month, his students interviewed more than 200 members from our community!
I’d like to think that the open engagement of our city council, department heads and elected officials has encouraged public participation in these and many other projects that we continue to move forward.
I will continue to promote open communication and transparency within city government in an effort to encourage public participation. All I ask in return is that when you weigh in on an issue, consider the benefits and consequences to the entire community. That is transparency. Happy Fourth of July!