Throughout its 102-year history, the League of Women Voters has been a vigorous advocate for transparent and accountable government. The League strongly believes that transparency and accountability in government–at all levels–is vital for a wide variety of reasons: to encourage civic engagement, to measure goal achievement and evaluate results, to improve services and outcomes, and to track and monitor the actions of governmental bodies and elected officials.
In order to evaluate the transparency and accountability of Newton’s city government, and to advocate for specific improvements, the League of Women Voters of Newton (LWVN) has launched a Municipal Transparency and Accountability Initiative. Over the next 12 months, LWVN will assess Newton’s municipal transparency and accountability, with reference to the needs in our community as well as examples and best practices implemented in other communities, in the following key areas:
- General information about municipal services, processes, and events (e.g., a comprehensive city government calendar; departmental websites; information about city services like trash pickup and road repairs; information about the budget process, special permit process, elections; a feedback mechanism for praise or criticism; functionality of 311 system; etc.);
- Fiscal, operational, and demographic data (e.g., budget and finance data; utilization or bottom line data for initiatives like NewMo, Blue Bikes; Newton’s progress toward carbon neutrality; public safety data such as NFD response times or number of monthly 911 calls by category; information about Newton’s affordable housing stock, including locations and availability; demographic trends, etc.)
- Information about City Council activity (e.g., status of docket items, councilor voting history and attendance at Council and committee meetings, minutes, agendas, audio and video recordings, etc.);
- Information that tracks mayor’s initiatives and priorities (e.g. ARPA spending, implementation of task force recommendations, follow-up to initiatives like the Community Needs Assessment, etc.);
- Consistent Information about Boards and Commissions (e.g., minutes, agendas, audio recordings, meeting materials, annual reports, correspondence, etc.)
As it begins this project and at key points as the project develops, LWVN seeks input from Newton groups and organizations. LWVN invites representatives of Newton groups and organizations to share their experiences with and views about transparency and accountability in Newton by responding to a brief survey.
LWVN looks forward to sharing the results of its Municipal Transparency and Accountability Initiative with the Newton community in 2023.