Opinion: Toward a More Transparent Tempe

Viewpoints Guest Column

The City of Tempe is committed to transparency, and we are making strides to improve the ways our community members can connect to their city’s work.

Perhaps the first major way we opened up city operations is still a hallmark of transparency today: broadcasting public meetings. Your City Council meets in Work Study Sessions (where we discuss ideas and initiatives) and Regular Council Meetings (where we vote on budgets, ordinances, and resolutions). Tempeans can participate in the City Council Chambers, stream meetings at tempe.gov/tempe11, or watch Tempe 11 on Cox Communications (Ch. 11) or Century Link (Ch. 8012). Agendas are posted at tempe.gov/clerk.

Other public meetings are held regularly to collect input on services, initiatives, and infrastructure improvements. How do you find out about your areas of interest? Sign up to get city emails at tempe.gov/enews and follow us on social media.

In these times of historic distrust in government, however, we must go beyond public meetings and offer other ways to focus a clearer lens on the people’s business. Working together, the City Council and staff have created six newer transparency initiatives:

1. City Council Priorities – Each year, the Tempe City Council refines our five top community priorities, and then staff measures the work that relates to those priorities. This year, we are building a dashboard to display those goals and our efforts to reach them. The dashboard will be available soon at www.tempe.gov/CouncilPriorities.

2. OpenBook$ – Using this accessible tool, residents can dive into the city’s financial data, review revenues and expenses, and even look at specific purchases. Users can create or view existing charts that explain our budget, capital improvements, costs of services and more. View this transparent budget tool at tempe.gov/OpenBooks.

3.  Open Data Portal – Tempe offers data in 40 different categories of city services, such as medical emergency response times, approved commercial sign packages, and more—without the need for a public records request. The data can be a launching point for new apps and research. More datasets will be available soon at tempe.gov/open-tempe.

4. Campaign Finance Reports – The City Council created a campaign finance reform working group to shine a light on our City Council elections, held every two years. That group effort resulted in a searchable, online resource that displays donors and contributions, which Tempe voters limited to $500 in our last election. To view these reports, go to: tempe.gov/campaignfinance.

5. Lobbyist Registry – For the first time in our history, lobbyists doing business with the City of Tempe (City Council, Boards & Commissions/Hearing Officer) must register with the Cand report on their spending or face a civil penalty. You can see who they are at tempe.gov/clerk.

6. Lobbyist Donations – Tempe’s latest transparency initiative streamlines records associated with lobbyist donations to Mayor and Council candidates. Instead of needing to compare the lobbyist registry to campaign finance reports to track lobbyists donations to the candidates, residents will be able to see both in one place. While lobbyist campaign contributions are legal, that information should be easy to discover.

Tempe is maximizing transparency, but we are by no means finished. We must continually take responsibility for providing complete information and communicating more clearly so that you can engage in your city. We invite you to use these resources and join the conversation.

How do you think we’re doing? What ideas do you have for us to bring more transparency to city government? Reach out to me at Lauren_Kuby@tempe.gov. Reach the entire City Council at councilcommunicator@tempe.gov.

Lauren Kuby is serving her first term as a City of Tempe Councilmember and has served on Council’s Campaign Finance Reform Working Group.

 

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Lauren Kuby

City of Tempe Councilmember; sustainability champion; fighter for workers and families; advocate for animals;

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