New Elected Bodies, New-Found Accountability

Guest Correspondence

BY CHRISTINE ROBINSON SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY NOV 21, 2020

The Argus Foundation has firmly taken the historic position that the role of an elected official in office is not to cheerlead for government, but to hold it accountable to taxpayers. This means publicly identifying potential problems and issuing timelines for projects and fixes, looking at measurable results and not deferring policy to the administrators and managers.

We were happy to see fresh faces in government this week and we watched, with interest, the new Sarasota City Commission’s first substantive meeting.

Items were pulled from the consent agenda, questions were asked, time was requested to investigate items with financial implications and professional courtesy was extended to new commissioners to get their questions answered. It was absolutely the right thing to do.

We were impressed with the questioning of spending, the realization that budget accountability is the responsibility of the city commission, and the understanding that we are in an economic downturn and need to watch every penny. It was refreshing and we hope to see more.

We congratulate Vice Mayor Erik Arroyo for setting the tone from the beginning that every dollar matters. We appreciate Commissioner Kyle Battie, Commissioner Liz Alpert and Mayor Hagen Brody for being very professional and extending an important courtesy to allow an item to be analyzed further. We hope this becomes a unanimous courtesy in the future. 

“This is how we have always done it,” or, “We need to respect the decisions of previous commissioners,” should never, ever, be on the table.  Each commissioner is responsible for his or her own votes and they should not defer to a previous commission or commissioner’s votes.   

New commissioners should take fresh eyes to projects and take what they learned from the campaign trail to make sure they are holding government accountable. They should question everything and do their best to learn, and not just from staff, about projects, policy and spending.

We congratulate the city commission on a great start and setting an expectation for staff and taxpayers that you will perform due diligence and question agenda items, especially those with financial consequences. We look forward to more of this with the budget and policy in the future. We hope this accountability approach spreads to other local governments.

Christine Robinson is the Executive Director of The Argus Foundation.

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