Advertisement

Dominick: City of Westminster must address shortcomings in transparency, get into compliance with state ethics ordinance

The City of Westminster is a wonderful place to live. I truly believe it has the ideal mix of things that make a city a great location to raise a family. However, like any location, Westminster has room for improvement and issues that need addressing. We also have a lot of issues to tackle here in the City of Westminster if we want to continue to improve our home.

As your representatives, we must tackle several issues that fall under public works and facilities. First, we have to continue finding solutions to our water and sewer allocation restraints. Thus, fostering the economic development and activity that Westminster requires to prosper.

Advertisement

Councilman Yingling and I, along with several members of the City’s hard-working staff have made tremendous progress on water reuse and other measures necessary to fill the gap until our reuse initiative can provide allocable water. Furthermore, we need to continue resurfacing the numerous roads that had been neglected during last decade’s recession. Moreover, the City staff needs improved working conditions and more modern facilities.

The Council and I have issues to tackle in municipal planning. While we have seen great progress downtown over the last couple of years, several areas of downtown Westminster need redevelopment and revitalization. We will have to pursue grants to help rebuild our aging sidewalks. Additionally, I’d like to see the Wakefield property add value to all of our residents while staying a green space.

Our departments and the staff have ever-changing jobs due to new infrastructure being built and managed. Therefore, we need to implement new strategies and tactics as an organization. All of our departments need our support in addressing these changes, and we need to ensure the compensation the City offers is competitive enough to recruit and retain skilled and talented staff.

I am going to discuss these issues in greater detail very soon.

While all of these issues are very important, there are other matters that need to be addressed with even greater urgency. In order for us as elected officials to properly and effectively handle what’s facing us, we have to be transparent and trusted by our electorate. One way to accomplish this task is to effectively communicate any discussion and decisions made by our Council. Many municipalities smaller than the City of Westminster broadcast their meetings of the Mayor and Council with live-streamed video. We have low-quality audio files that are uploaded after the meeting. We need to address this shortcoming.

The most crucial issue that we must handle is our current non-compliance with the requirements set by the Maryland State Ethics Commission. The City’s ethics ordinance has been out of compliance with State requirements since they went into effect in 2011. There are only a handful of other municipalities in the state that are not compliant, and the City of Westminster should not be one of them. In order to move our City forward in all of the areas previously mentioned, we must first fix the foundation. Progress on this matter starts with passing an ethics ordinance that includes the disclosures required by the Maryland State government and all of Maryland’s local governments.

I am unsure as to why a compliant ethics ordinance has yet to be passed, but I strongly believe the majority of the current Council would vote to make it happen. The two longest-serving councilmembers are the only individuals still serving who have objected to passing a complete and compliant ordinance in the past. Councilman Yingling and I support a state-compliant ethics ordinance. Likewise, during their recent candidate forum, the newest councilmembers both said that they would support a new, compliant ethics ordinance. Councilwoman Gilbert and Councilman Dayhoff have both been an absolute pleasure to work with, and we are lucky to have them in office serving as our representatives. With all of the new support for compliance, perhaps the old guard will join us and make the City of Westminster as transparent of an organization as our residents deserve.

Running a government and the politics that come with it are not always simple, but there are some matters on which I hope we can all come together. I am asking those who have resisted compliance in the past to join the rest of us and see a compliant ethics ordinance passed through the City of Westminster’s Common Council. I would love to see a measure as fundamental as this pass unanimously.

Joe Dominick is the mayor of Westminster.

Advertisement
Advertisement