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Page last updated on July 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Inauguration Remarks, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton January 1, 2016

Thank you all for being here today, this first day of 2016. I hope your new year is going well and that your resolutions are intact at least so far, 12 hours in and counting. On this day of beginnings, I first want to express our collective thanks and appreciation to outstanding public servants who are concluding a chapter of their service. With general recognition to Stinesville and Ellettsville, I want to thank four elected officials from Bloomington who are moving to new efforts as of today, concluding fine service to our community. Two council members served our city with distinction during this past four-year term, Marty Spechler and Darryl Neher. Please join me in thanking them both Darryl and Marty for their dedication, their integrity, and their excellent public service.

Regina Moore is concluding four terms - sixteen years - as the City Clerk, and in many ways as the face of local government. And also particularly leading a renaissance and strengthening of local grassroots politics and activism that will have impact for generations, especially among women. Thank you Regina for your exemplary service to this community.

And Mark Kruzan is concluding three terms as the Mayor of Bloomington, following eight terms in the state legislature. Mark has been a stalwart and creative leader for 28 years, and there is no doubt he leaves a real legacy in this community from the trails and parks, to the arts and innovation communities, to the commitment to diversity and inclusiveness evident every day. Please join me in thanking Mayor Kruzan for his many years of dedicated public service.

Today is also a day for looking ahead, and committing to ourselves and to each other that we will work together for our respective communities. I'm so pleased to be taking the oath of office with 9 colleagues and friends on the City Council, Nicole Bolden our new Clerk, and our neighbors from Stinesville and Ellettsville.

Only about 1 in 8 people on our planet live in full-functioning democracies. Fewer than 13%. So we're lucky. A lot of people we've read about, and a lot more we've never heard of, marched and organized and joined committees and civic efforts and sat-in and spoke out and stood up and fought and died to create and protect our democracy. This is a day to remember that and dedicate ourselves to furthering that democracy. Indeed to remember that through dialogue and dissent and sometimes even stressful conflict we improve our communities. Those values of creative and respectful activism and engagement are in the DNA of Bloomington.

It's a day to remember that all of us taking our oaths here today are representing all the residents of our communities, whether they register to vote or not, whether they voted or not, whether they supported any of us or not. Whether they have time to show up at community meetings or not. Whether they agree with our judgments or not. From whatever walk of life they come.

It's important also to recognize the context in which we will work. We have some barriers to overcome.

Data show that people overall are deeply distrustful of the work of government in general. In particular the federal government, but don't forget that many people lump us together: we are 'GUVMINT.' Fifty plus years ago, more than three quarters of Americans polled said they trusted their government all or most of the time. Most recently that figure is, sadly, below 20%. The vast majority of Americans do not trust their government. We don't trust OUR OWN GOVERNMENT. More than half of Americans believe that "ordinary Americans" would do a better job of addressing government problems than does current government. I'm sure most of us up here would count ourselves 'ordinary Americans,' but that's another story.

And yes local government is different from national and state government. Thank goodness. But what does this general disaffection mean for us?

With apologies to Dr.Seuss and Horton: SAY WHAT WE'LL DO. AND DO WHAT WE SAY. And do it efficiently, and transparently, and with greater engagement.

Of course we can say a lot about the WHAT we'll do - what are our overall goals? That takes a lot of dialogue and collaboration.

A list of overall topics in front of us would be long and include: the Tech Park, the Hospital relocation, sidewalks and trails, I-69 impacts and opportunities, the convention center, Switchyard Park, annexation, sanitation, our drinking water and sewer and wastewater systems, sustainable energy, support for the arts, local agriculture, regional cooperation, Lake Monroe, urban deer, parking meters, urban crows, fiscal controls, of course public safety, and more and more.

Today is not the day to consider all that's in front of us. But I will highlight three basics in the 'say what we'll do' category, in my view:

We have to focus on a strong economy for all: good jobs, sustainable, grounded in quality infrastructure, including our DIGITAL infrastructure, that create quality of life for all, supporting the recreation, the creative culture, and learning culture that we so treasure. We must have a local economy that is sustainable, and successful, amid our state, national, and global economies.

We've got some work ahead to strengthen our local economy - with our regional Gross Domestic Product declining an average of 1.2% each year for the past five years, and with job levels still below pre-recession levels - and the job growth we have tending to be in lower-income occupations.

That's why one specific step I'm announcing today is the creation next week of a volunteer effort, a "Wage Growth Taskforce," to focus attention on what practical steps our city and region can take to remedy this trend and build a stronger, more sustainable foundation of good jobs.

Affordable Housing is a second essential focus. Our community must offer living options for people of all walks of life, in a wide range of life

circumstances, incomes and capacities. Our future depends on it. And it needs our attention, which I will bring, along with, I know, city council.

Public Education is a third essential area of attention. All of us in city government must be strong partners with the public school system that is the bedrock of our community. Their success is our success, and we will work hand in glove together wherever possible. I plan personally to go door to door in 2016 for the upcoming referendum that is so important, and encourage you to do the same.

In all the areas of our work, we of course have to be efficient. Do as much with the public dollar and other public resources as we can, and protect the public trust.

An additional step I'm announcing is the creation next week of an independent Fiscal Control Taskforce, which within 90 days will perform a fiscal health check for our city government, to assure that we are fiscally under control and well managed - to identify any remaining gaps or challenges, and recommend fixes.

I look forward to working with the city council, and the outstanding 650 city employees, to do our best working for our community.

Besides deciding WHAT we will do, together, it's so very important HOW we do it. In my remaining few minutes I want to highlight two additional imperatives: Transparency. And Engagement.

Transparency means open to view - letting information out, measuring what we are doing and holding ourselves accountable, and sharing results widely. I've pledged from the beginning of my campaign to throw open the doors of city hall, literally and figuratively. Government belongs to the people, and that means all the data and information, good and bad, flattering and un-, as well.

I'm announcing three immediate steps in this vein:

First, on Monday we will launch a new section of the city website, to be called "B-Clear" for now - i.e. Bloomington Clear, or Be Clear about what we're up to. (And if you have a better name, we're all ears.). B-Clear will be a one-stop place to build an ever-growing assembly of useful data. We'll start with as MUCH as we can as SOON as we can, including local crime and public safety data, and fiscal information about the city, and parking meter information and utilities data, and everything else we can get our hands on. We'll be organizing it as open, accessible data so all can see and use it and manipulate it. Please be patient, and be suggestive - what else would you like to see on there? What would you like to know about the city and our data? It's going to grow, and organically.

Second, starting TODAY we've launched a 24/7 anonymous hotline, where anyone - city resident, city employee, good Samaritan - can call and report on any perceived potential misconduct or unethical activity related to city government. I encourage anyone who believes our government is doing something we ought not to be doing, please call 812-349-3435, and give us the details. I hope this is one part of avoiding some of the stumbles we've seen in the recent past.

And third, as promised in my campaign, we'll commence weekly town hall meetings, with me or with department heads, where the doors are open and the public is welcome. A chance for anyone interested to come and ask about, or suggest things, for our community. I'll start this personally next Friday, January 8th, in this room, at noon, and welcome any and all to join us.

Transparency is a good on its own and we'll be increasing it in coming weeks and months. Perhaps as important is its direct connection to the second key factor of Engagement. Cities all across the country are finding innovative ways to engage more directly with residents in building better communities.

We have more than 30 boards and commissions, and they are important. Other forms of engagement are transforming cities around the country - whether through participatory budgeting, hackathons for new government apps, empowerment of line workers to make more decisions

and connect more directly with citizens, sharing big data for all to digest and analyze and use, and more - it's a big and exciting world of innovation in government out there.

Evidence suggests that front-line workers are typically better innovators than their managers. Important to hear that. They know the needs and how to fix problems. We need government that listens to and empowers our 600 plus workers with data and goals, and lets them solve problems. We need government that experiments with solutions, and learns day by day, week by week, how better to reach our goals.

By the way this means also we have to recognize that government will make mistakes. Like the best organizations in today's economy, we have to be willing to try things, fail, fall short, learn, try again, fail better, learn more, repeat, and keep getting better at what we do. That's a little scary in a transparent government, but it's essential if we are to become the effective government we need to be.

I spent three days recently with two dozen new mayors from around the country, listening to experienced city leaders describe opportunities and challenges. A consistent message was: government has to change, to innovate, to experiment, to give relentless attention to our residents and what their needs and interests are, to LISTEN, and constantly measure how well we are meeting the needs. Transparency and engagement are two essential building blocks for this effort.

That's why next week I will be creating a third task force - don't worry folks, that's all, just 3. This group of residents and city employees will focus on Innovation in Government - how do we better use the tools of the modern economy and culture to deliver services and meet needs of our community. It's a rich field out there - from how parking tickets are collected, to how to predict and prevent public safety challenges, to facilitating business start ups, or empowering city employees - and we need to be plowing that field.

I was recently given a book about public education, and I'll paraphrase something that rang true to me: "Government doesn't need unloving

critics, nor uncritical lovers." That means critics of government must have a goal of improving it, not hamstringing or starving it. And it means those who cherish government must always be critics, looking to make it better at what we attempt to do.

I hope you are a lover of government. I am. It is ours. It is us. And we all need to be these LOVING CRITICS of government. Let's keep experimenting and getting better at what we want to accomplish together. So we can make this community work, really well, for people from all walks of life.

Let's get to work together, council, fellow employees, community. I'll see you on the job on Monday!

But before we get to work, let's celebrate today. I hope you all can stay, congratulate your friends and family members sworn in today, enjoy a little music provide to us by the Post Modern Jazz Quartet, some refreshments, and please head upstairs to the open-door Mayor's office upstairs for a visit.

Thank you all for coming to this day of democracy in action.