There was a central theme in the first City Council meeting of August… transparency.
The new City Manager has ushered in an era of transparency and open discussion, much to the discussion of several long-term Council members and the Mayor. The professionalism of City staff and management is clearly on the rise – and a welcome sight!
The Council received presentations on two staff programs to increase accountability and transparency in Kings Mountain City Government. The first was a through and well-structured proposal by the City Clerk to launch a Citizens Academy to begin this fall. The Citizens Academy will provide education and introductions to not only how the city is managed and operated, but also by whom. The time to apply for the first class of fifteen residents is soon. When announced, we certainly will post it on our site. Right now, the plan is to run two eight-week programs twice a year (with the possible introduction of a program for high school students in the summer). The City Clerk should be commended for her intiative and strategic thinking in putting this program together. We hope that our leadership see the value and transparency that a program such as this will bring to local government.
Additionally, the Police Chief unveiled a new organizational structure for the Kings Mountain Police Department – along with a refined mission to engage in community policing. Officers will now be assigned to one of four “bears” – or districts – throughout the city. They will not only be tasked with patrolling these beats, but also encouraged to interact with citizens in those communitites and to take a proactive approach to their police work. This increase in accountability and visibility will be good for the citizens of our town, and it will also be good for these officers to establish personal relationships. Along with this approach, the Chief has begun a series of informal visits with groups throughout Kings Mountain. His first was hosted by the Peoples Baptist Church and Reverend John House. The visit was so well received that Reverend Houze came to the Council meeting to publicly thank the Chief for showing up, engaging, and doing what he said he was going to do. The Chief is off to a great start and has brought a level of professionalism and accountability that sets a higher bar for performance throughout City government and departments.
Another item of interest was a request from the American Legion World Series for additional funding. The City has historically given tens of thousands of dollars to this event each year – without any accountability and while receiving nothing in return. The new City Manager has questioned the value that we, as residents of KM, receive from this use of our tax dollars, and it has been revealed that we have received none of the promised benefits over the years. Years of abuse at the hands of the County are coming home to roost, and soon the County will need to face a realization – that Kings Mountain is poised to be the primary economic driver in the region with the Casion and coming lithium mine. Our relationship with the County has struggled over the past years as long-term Council members try to ignore reality and avoid ruffling feathers. We hope that our next round of leadership to be elected this Fall can work to build better relationships with entities in the County in ways that give back to our City.
Othe business involving amendments to the City’s Unified Development Ordinance, which will allow for large developments over fifty acres to apply for Planned Development zoning – this takes into consideration the size of these projects and the considerable investment required. Considerable time was also spent discussing the homeless population and acting on a plan to provide temporary solutions in times of weather extremes. This humanitarian effort is beight thought out carefully and crafted with the interests of all citizens in mind.
In short, the contrasts between council meetings of the past and today are striking. These is actual discussion taking place in front of the public, not in meetings before the meeting and behind closed doors. This is dialogue and dissent. Discussion and compromise on how to best manage the affairs of the City.
The biggest victors is the transparency that is creeping into all aspects of City business. This is a good thing that we should not take for granted.