Last week, I issued a challenge to both District 1 candidates, Jami Tucker and Andrea Verhoff. And great news . . . both candidates rose to the challenge and unequivocally promised to advocate for quarterly, video-taped Town Hall meetings with the City Council and (separately) City Staff leadership (i.e., City Manager Krokoff and his direct reports). Town hall meetings are a best practice that the City of Milton has been grossly negligent in NOT adopting. And done right (as I have described above), town hall meetings could be a game-changer for good governance. Town Hall meetings are the single most effective tool in ensuring government accountability . . . and that is why Milton’s government has been roundly reluctant to implement Town Hall meetings.
Citizens, I am not naïve that the promise made by the District 2 candidates is . . . well, just a promise . . . and of course, politicians are promiscuous with promises and virtually virginal when it comes to keeping such promises. However, you have to start somewhere . . . and an unequivocal promise to advocate for Town Hall meetings is an essential first step.
I am also not naïve that there will not be stubbornly strong resistance from certain quarters. I fully expect Council Members Moore and Cookerly will be defiant. Mr. Moore is the consummate backroom politician and has much to answer for. Will he really want to face the Milton mob? And whatever does one wear to a tar-and-feathering? As for Ms. Cookerly, I doubt she wants to mix with Milton’s commoners. On Veterans Day a few years ago, she would not stoop to extend her hand to veterans (I was one of them) that came forward for the Mayor’s Veterans Day proclamation. (I was frankly offended and embarrassed for our City.) And does Ms. Cookerly really want to field questions about the city making a passive park out of the greenspace it bought (in my opinion, overpaid for) contiguous with her estate? (My hope is that Adam D’Anella might challenge Ms. Cookerly in 2023. 🙂 ) And the strongest pushback is likely to come from City Manager Steve Krokoff, who for 4+ years has diligently dug moats between the city government fortress and its subjects. Krokoff’s finely tuned corporate-like Public Relations machine regularly spews out look good/feel-good stories and other propaganda to distract citizens from Krokoff’s problem-plagued administration. Krokoff controls the City Council meeting agendas . . . does he really want to let citizens see behind the curtain?
So yes, the city’s acceptance of Town Hall meetings will be an up-hill battle, but a battle well worth waging . . . and a great way for newly elected council members to demonstrate to citizens that they care about good governance and about advancing citizens’ prerogatives. No more business as usual at City Hall!
Following are the responses I received from candidates Verhoff and Tucker. Thank you to both candidates!
Ms. Verhoff’s response follows:
Ms. Tucker’s response follows. I have edited out some of Ms. Tucker’s email that was not directly relevant to the issue of Town Hall meetings. However, in fairness to Ms. Tucker, I have included her full response along with my initial challenge email as a pdf file.
Unfortunately, the current campaign is mostly focused on extraneous issues. My candidate challenges are intended to re-focus the campaign on critical and potentially differentiating issues: good governance and smart land use. Accordingly, I am pleased that both candidates have made an unequivocal commitment to Town Hall meetings. I urge other citizens to take the opportunity to challenge the candidates on issues of policy and process. One great benefit of campaigns is that they (can) force debate on issues of importance to the community. A competitive race requires candidates to take stands . . . that is, if we citizens challenge them to take such stands. I do hope that both candidates communicate stronger, more specific stances on land use, particularly the approval of variances.
Advocating for Accountability,
Town Hall Meetings – First Failed Attempt in 2019. I have previously experienced the pain of defeat in my quest for Town Hall meetings. I lobbied Council Member Laura Bentley in early 2019 to advocate for Town Hall meetings. I believed that she needed to make amends for her advocacy in 2018 for 28 variances (and a bastardized use permit for a music venue) at Birmingham Crossroads. However, shortly after I began lobbying for Town Hall meetings, Laura hastily announced she would be conducting her own “community update.” It was her first and only such meeting during her 4 years in office. And in a carefully parsed email, Laura expressed her opposition to public Town Hall meetings (with full council) . . . so much for her promise to “shift power back to citizens” . . . yet another broken campaign promise in Milton. Laura did promise to take up the matter with City Manager Krokoff. However, not unsurprisingly, neither Laura nor Krokoff ever got back to me about Town Hall meetings, and Krokoff never put Town Hall meetings on council’s agenda. (This highlights an important issue in Milton. Citizens need more transparency and more influence in the process for developing City Council meeting agendas. I will blog more about this in a future blog post.) Hopefully, citizens will prevail in Round 2 of the battle for Town Hall meetings.