The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

The meaning of good governance

As I look forward to the November Encinitas City Council election, I think about the meaning of good governance, which I see as a nonpartisan goal that serves our community. 

The following are some principles that reflect what I want in an elected official.

1. You Work for Us: Expenditure of public funds, provision of public works and city services that derive from our taxes and other fees should be carried out on behalf of the residents of Encinitas for the primary purpose of protecting and enhancing our quality of life.

2. Open the Books and Use 21st Century Technology: Taxpayers are entitled to full and open accounting of expenditures, commitments and activities by the City Council, public employees and contractors. Citizens are also entitled to easy electronic access to city documents, including permit applications, appeals, the latest applicable general and specific plans, budgets, and assessment reports. The City should use current information technology to increase transparency and access.

3. Speak with Us Before You Speak for Us: Elected officials who represent the citizens of Encinitas in local and regional bodies like SANDAG, NCTD and the water districts should inform the public of significant issues before making commitments on our behalf and should seek public input whenever possible.

4. Run Meetings Properly: Public meetings should adhere to standard parliamentary procedure and conform to the Brown Act so citizens who have an interest can be well-informed about when such issues might be discussed in a public forum. Last minute changes to the agenda without explanation or consent should be avoided. A list of issues that the Council has agreed to put on the agenda should be publicly available with periodic reports on when such items will be addressed.

5. Tell the Truth: If we have more obligations than we have money, be honest about it. If we can’t deliver on services we promised, let us know so we don’t expect more than is possible. We’re on the same team — all working for the good of Encinitas.

6. Look at Options: Staff reports should include relevant background, data and evaluation of alternatives so we all can understand more fully what options might be available and can make informed decisions. Any presentations made by staff must be on the agenda and provided in advance.

7. Listen to Many Voices: Appointees to ad hoc and standing committees should be residents of Encinitas unless there is a compelling reason why a non-resident individual is needed. Criteria for appointment to ad hoc and standing committees and commissions should be spelled out and Council members voting on such appointments should be required to evaluate candidates against such criteria and justify their votes. This will ensure the city benefits from a diversity of qualified opinions, not just representatives of a particular segment of the community.

8. Protect Nature: Priority should be given to preservation of existing open space and protected habitat. Public land should not be sold to finance capital-improvement projects elsewhere.

Lisa Shaffer is an Encinitas resident and will run for Encinitas City Council this November.