6 Principles for Island Governance
These principles apply to all elected officials, appointed officials and staff involved in the governance of South Padre Island, the Laguna Madre Water District, Point Isabel ISD and the Cameron County Commissioners Court.
How do we get trust in our government? Honesty is the first step. It's almost a cliché, but we do want our political leaders to be honest with us. Fairness is the second step. Treat us all the same. We don't want to see one set of rules for the "big guys" and another for everyone else.
It also means No Conflict of Interest. All governments in the United States are REPRESENTATIVE democracies. That means our elected officials represent us. When there is a conflict of interests, suddenly, our elected officials are perceived to represent themselves instead of their constituents.
Everyone seems to be getting tired of gridlock and silliness in politics. We want neither gridlock nor silliness. We want our elected officials to work together with our professional staff to make and execute the best possible decisions for our island.
Teamwork builds on respect. Every player must know their role and respect the role of every other player. The Council must respect the professional staff. The individual members must respect the role of the mayor. The professional staff must support the roles of the elected officials, and everyone must follow both the rules and the laws.
For our island to grow and prosper, we MUST take a long-term view. We must look at what is best for our island over the long haul, not the next week or next month, but at least the next decade. We solve the problems of today, but our focus is on creating the opportunities of tomorrow.
Governments are designed to move slowly and deliberately. No ordinance should go directly from a council member to the next meeting for approval. Every council member's ideas should first move to city staff to review them and point out any issues with implementation.
Step 2 is to move them either to the appropriate appointed citizens' board (CVAB, EDC, STF, etc.) or to a standing subcommittee of the Council itself (governance, public safety, etc.). Only after each proposal has been thoroughly reviewed (and improved!) by staff and citizen review should it come to the Council.
It slows down the process, but that is a good thing. It allows for a diversity of thought to review it, a diversity of eyes to see it, and a diversity of voices to discuss it. Even the best ideas can be improved this way, and it also facilitates the next point.
Transparency isn't meeting the MINIMUM legal requirements. We all know that legal and ethical are two very different things. Transparency is making sure that all the constituents represented, ESPECIALLY those most impacted by a proposal, are fully informed about a proposal and have the opportunity for MEANINGFUL input.
The biggest problem with any government spending - for both staff and elected officials - is that it is not their money. Pretend it is. Before you spend any money, ask yourself out loud, "If this was my money, is this how I would spend it?" Take the broader view. Don't merely ask if spending the money will solve the problem; ask if this is the critical thing on which the island can spend these dollars to accomplish the goal.