Proper functioning of a representative form of government depends upon the degree to which elected officials are willing to welcome the viewpoints of voters and to consider the merits of ideas that may differ from their own. To assess that essential quality in the five candidates for City Council in the upcoming election, I sent a message to each of them on April 19 at the email address listed on their respective campaign websites.
I asked each of them the same question: “What is your assessment of the points Rich Rifkin made in his April 18 Davis Enterprise column?” That column pondered the necessity of a city sales tax increase. In the body of my email message I pasted the text of the column in case the candidates had not seen it. I asked each candidate to tell me their preferred approach for resolving the problems that Rifkin described.
After more than a week had passed, I had received responses from only three candidates: John Munn, Daniel Parrella and Robb Davis.
Each of them promptly sent replies outlining their views about tackling the city’s budget problems, and further asked for my reactions, reflecting their apparent sincere interest in learning my opinions.
To each of them I replied:
“While analysis of the fiscal reserves and containment of employee compensation costs are important, I advocate an even more fundamental probe. I believe this problem requires critical scrutiny of the functions the city is performing. We need to make a citizen-fueled evaluation of city services at three levels:
“1. Which services are essential for the municipal government to perform?
“2. Which services are beneficial and appropriate, but of lesser importance?
“3. Which services are inappropriate for the municipal government to perform, and should be in the realm of private enterprise?
“Those determinations would then become the driver in allocation of financial and personnel resources. The city staff composition must coincide with functional needs.”
My views align most closely with those of Munn and Parrella, both of whom have questioned the city’s standard operating procedure of increasing revenue through additional taxes. I disagree with Davis’ support of the Measure O sales tax proposal.
I commend all three for inviting and considering my opinions. In contrast, failure of candidates to acknowledge inquiries from the electorate is troubling.