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Letter: Openness and transparency – often said, seldom delivered

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Remember when the Obama campaign declared that his administration would be the most open and transparent in history? It was a great campaign promise that sold well with voters, but there were no details on how it would be implemented. It’s all too common campaign rhetoric. After the election, these types of promises typically fade and are forgotten by most.

I want to make a difference when it comes to open government, transparency, and citizen access to proposed town actions. I am proposing that the town establish a new Communication Facilitator position to assist and inform citizens on upcoming developments and proposed town actions. This individual would report directly to the Town Manager in order to promote a level of independence and non-bias, but would be accessible and responsive to citizens with detailed information and facts of impending town actions.

The Communication Facilitator would serve as a liaison and auditor for all communications between the town, residents, and developers regarding planning and zoning issues in our town. This responsibility falls on the planning and zoning staff currently. Removing this burden from the P&Z staff allows them to better enforce ordinances and the rules of our town, while the new communications professional can better facilitate the flow of factual information between citizens, developers, and the town.

Reports of citizen notifications, developer meetings with citizens, and details of these communications would be provided to the Planning & Zoning Commission and Town Council on every project. These reports would consist of an accounting of how many meetings were held, how many residents were notified of the project, issues resolved and unresolved, as well as the general tone and success of communications between the parties.

One of the benefits of the Communication Facilitator position is that they could serve as a collection point for questions and concerns, saving town staff from answering the same questions over and over again. The Facilitator could provide information and answers more effectively than with the current town process, and could serve as a clearinghouse of factual information for citizens.

Developers would also benefit and could more effectively share information with citizens with the Facilitator’s direction and involvement. The Communication Facilitator would be copied and account for all correspondence with development cases. It would be less likely that the town or developer could drop the ball in communicating with residents.

This position would not be used as a choke point or filter on communications, but instead would act as a window on the process. The benefits would be many and would include; greater accountability, more civil and accurate discourse, better understanding by Council and their appointees, and the elimination of the “He said they said” scenario.

I believe that it is time to take real and accountable steps to address the concerns of Flower Mound Residents regarding the transparency of the development process in our town. While there are many details that will have to be worked out with this proposal, it is a good first step. I look forward to working with others to come up with additional ideas to promote even more openness and transparency in our town government.

Don McDaniel
Candidate for Flower Mound Town Council,
Place 3
Flower Mound, TX

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