I snicker whenever I hear a politician claim or promise to be transparent. Sure, the people would like to know what’s going on every now and then, but no one should expect total transparency. It defeats the purpose of being in government, where back room deals were invented, and sometimes for good reason.
I chuckled when the very law makers who work behind closed doors found it necessary to create right-to-know laws so people could request access to public records they should have access to anyway. And even with the laws, getting a piece a paper out of a government that doesn’t want you to have it can take forever, if you get it at all.
Once a year in Chester, there’s a State of the City address delivered by the mayor to highlight all the good things they want us to know about. But, who is ‘us?’
As the Chester community journalist, I’m proud to announce I’ve never been invited to cover a State of the City in the 12 years I’ve been doing this thing. I will try to mash a second-hand review from the Delaware County Times coverage.
Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland delivered his 2019 “State of the City” address to a crowd of Delaware County Chamber of Commerce members and city officials at Talen Energy Stadium Friday morning.
Trust me when I say this is the most common comment coming from these streets – “Why aren’t the people of Chester the first ones who get to hear the State of the City?” Even my 94-year-old mom who’s sitting up in a hospital bed reading the paper said this very thing to me yesterday when she saw the article.
‘State of the Anythings’ is government’s way of sharing their success and vision to their constituents. Of course, the President of the United States addresses congress and a few invited guest, but they use television and radio to reach the American citizens who ultimately want to hear what government is doing for them.
Does the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce really care more about Chester than Chester residents? Don’t city officials already know the State of City? Why is the State of Chester delivered to them and not us?
Regular citizens want to be transparent with their questions and concerns toward city government, too. Many get bummed out with the limited 3-minutes they get at City Council meetings and rarely see any direct follow up to their concerns. There are community liaisons and an occasional townhall meeting, but overall, there is very little opportunity for citizens to connect with city officials to share and address concerns.
Since most didn’t attend the State of the City, here are the points made by our mayor as reported by the Daily Times. Leave a comment on which ones are important to you in the comment section or Facebook. We need to find a way to create on going dialog if transparency is going to work.
- groundbreaking on the Arbor Estates, 4 new homes being build near the Salvation Army.
- Candlewood Suites hotel next to City Hall reached its final day of construction.
- Agronomed Pharmaceutical Company’s medical marijuana growing facility on 2nd and Broomall is under construction.
- Silvercare Nursing and Rehabilitation Campus is soon to open in the former Community Hospital bringing 300 jobs.
- American Wood Design receiving the 2019 Family-Owned Business of the Year award
- Athletic and footwear retailer DTLR’s downtown location is the top store in the tri-state area.
- …laser focused on the fiscal health of our city,” Kirkland said, referencing three consecutive balanced budgets and continued reduction in the business privilege.
- …committed to exiting ACT 47 before the 3-year extension ends (in 2021)
- the city ended 2018 with its lowest number recorded homicides since 2009. For the first half of 2019, the city has seen a 12% drop in violent crime and 44% drop in homicides year-over-year. It is on pace to end 2019 with its lowest homicide in over two decades.
- new efforts from the Office of Workforce Development such as expungement clinics to help residents with criminal records gain better employment prospects.
- work commencing on the Seventh Street bridge, slated for completion in 2020, and the Lloyd Street bridge entering its final design phase.
- Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission Board approved a $249,700 Regional Trails Program award for Chester Creek Trail, supporting construction of a trail on the levee wall and along South Eyre Drive.
During an audience question segment, Kirkland stated a difficulty for the administration has been a “lack of improvement” in the city school system.
There was probably more stuff not reported that was shared at the State of the City, but this is the extent to what the Daily Times put out.
If you want to know more, call or visit Chester City Hall. There’s probably video or copies of the address you can take home to read.