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Conspiracy or just bad customer service?

This is National Sunshine

Week. 

It's a week set aside every year to remember the value of an open and transparent government, the foundation of a free society.

•••

Most fights over open government once pitted journalists – who wanted to shed light on government activities - against government officials who wanted to keep their actions in the dark.

However, the Freedom of Information Act and the California Public Records Act now make it relatively easy for average citizens – in small towns like Sanger – to hold local government accountable by requesting public documents that show how the elected representatives are behaving and how the tax dollars are being spent.

•••

Our council/manager - weak mayor - form of government in Sanger takes into account that elected council members may not have had prior public service or business experience. Their willingness to serve, in fact, may be their only qualification. So, we don't expect or want them to try to manage the multi-million dollar business of local government. 

We elect them to be policy makers, not managers.

Statutes prohibit council members – including the mayor - from direct management of any city employee – except the city manager, who reports to the council, is evaluated by the council and serves at the will of the council.

•••

Our elected representatives, mayor Frank Gonzalez, mayor pro tem Daniel Martinez, Humberto Garza, Eli Ontiveros and Esmeralda Hurtado are our board of directors. 

The city manager, Tim Chapa, is our chief executive officer. 

We pay their salaries. 

They work for us. 

They are our employees. 

We have a right and a duty to hold them accountable for learning the rules, following the rules, behaving ethically and being open and transparent about setting and carrying out policies to take good care of us – and our money.

•••

Sunshine Week is about encouraging the chief executive officer and the board to be open and transparent.

And, in my opinion, they need a lot of encouraging because, in my opinion, this is the least transparent administration at city hall since I became editor of the Herald more than a dozen years ago.

•••

I don't buy into the conspiracy theories that contend the council and the city manager spend their days plotting to do bad things.

I think it's more likely that, starting at the top, there is an attitude that it would be so much easier for them to get their jobs done if they didn't have to put up with us, their customers.

I don't think they believe the customers - that's us - are always right. I think they believe and treat us like we're just flat out annoying.

I think, starting at the top, there is no emphasis on good customer service, which includes good communication with customers.

The planning commission meeting this evening is a great example of customers, residents, reacting to that kind of bad customer service.

There would be no meeting if the city planners had been properly overseen by the city manager and the city manager had been properly overseen by the city council and the planners had been made to do it right in the first place. 

The city councilmembers, at the March 7 meeting were talking about their priorities for the next fiscal year and mayor pro tem Martinez asked the audience if they had any comments about them. 

Nobody in the audience knew what they were. 

Nobody had a copy of the priorities and they weren't projected on a screen for the audience to see.

Bad, bad customer service.

Whatever those priorities are they apparently don't include:

• Improve customer relations and learn to communicate better with the residents of Sanger - who are the customers. 

That's all I have to say about that because I want to share the comments about bad customer service by Dr. Jerry Valadez of SAM Academy. He couldn't be at the meeting so he submitted them to the council in writing. 

However, a couple of others at the meeting complained about the same thing - and, by the way - there was still nothing posted on the city website on Tuesday when I wrote this about the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the oversight meeting.  

I think this administration is a lot like the bad drivers in Sanger who don't use their turn signals. 

They apparently just don't think it's all that important for us to know which direction they're going to turn. 

Please direct your questions or comments to sangerherald@gmail.com

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