We continue our conversation with Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. This week, we discuss transparency and why Hollingsworth ran for mayor. Sentinel reporter Candace Rojo Keyes conducted the interview. Sentinel: If there was any one thing you could go back and change or do over, what would it be? Hollingsworth: There is one vote that I […]
We continue our conversation with Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. This week, we discuss transparency and why Hollingsworth ran for mayor. Sentinel reporter Candace Rojo Keyes conducted the interview.
Sentinel: If there was any one thing you could go back and change or do over, what would it be?
Hollingsworth: There is one vote that I was a bit disappointed in myself about and that was we had a business that wanted to be able to offer dancing to its patrons. And that business had been good, at least by reports from police departments and code, by those types of measures that business was a good business neighbor. But due to where they were located and another bad actor where they were located, a business who wasn’t quite the best neighbor, who utilized dancing at their establishment and it created some concerns with residents because they didn’t manage it well and ultimately they weren’t a good neighbor to us. You know, the council voted to not allow this other business to offer that as an amenity for its patrons.
I was disappointed with that vote because it was earlier in my term and when people fill and pack the chambers, there is an immense amount of pressure because you think these people are coming and these are the ones that definitely matter, the ones who are showing up and saying this is what I think and no this shouldn’t be allowed and then you feel like, those are the ones that came out, they are the ones I have to listen to and vote for. On top of that you have colleagues who live in the area and you want to be deferential to them because they have the most regular experience with their residence and with the business or person in question.
At that time, I think it was the right decision because I was looking at all of those factors. As I matured a bit in my roll as a council member, you start to see different characteristics of how people get involved in councils or in local government. You notice that it’s typically the people that are most informed that are coming out. That doesn’t mean they are the most interested or the ones who have the biggest investment in it necessarily.
There may be other people out there who may have the opposite or the same opinion, but because we haven’t done the work of trying to engage a broader group of residents, we don’t have a broader group of input. And when your input is limited, your decisions can be limited, so I was disappointed that this was something that appeared to be against the certain type of restaurant and this certain type of community, and I know that wasn’t my intent or the intent of my colleagues, it was an attempt to address an issue that we hadn’t addressed well with another business and it ended up impacting one that had been a really good resident and neighbor, so if I could change anything, it would be to actively seek out information from those who are not the loudest voices in the room and from those you don’t typically see at a meaning.
That’s what has informed, not that particular instance but that general theme, is something that has informed my thinking as I developed my platform of running for mayor, being proactive about getting input from residents and not limiting ourselves to just those who are able or choose to show up, but to understand that we touch a lot of people and how can we use the tools that we have to be able to see where input is coming from so that we can know, if the people that are filling the room are about an issue over here, but the people that are filling the room live over here, qualitatively are those the same? How do we seek out input from those over here to make sure that we are making the best decision?
Sentinel: And how do you seek that information, how do you get it?
Hollingsworth: It’s gonna be a process that we are going to start working on. After you and I meet, the city administrator and I are having the first of several meetings so that we can talk about how we can translate the goals that I have or cascade them down to the department level. My role is policy and the person that I interact most with is the city administrator. Then the staff is her staff, so how do we make the vision of being more open and more transparent and inclusive, carry out to all the different department levels.
I have my ideas, one of which I put out for the budget request which begins in July, which I will be calling public listing. Do you solicit information differently, which means you think about all the different ways that you touch residents, of course there’s mail, phone, digital. What questions do we ask, what do we want to know, how do we frame those questions, aside from angle survey. How frequently do we do that? When we do things like, how do we follow up on the information that we get? And so that’s something that we are going to start.
Another is that I think we can incorporate GIS technology, which is what I was talking about with the mapping. If we’re talking about budget and road infrastructure and putting money into something. All the people are requesting it over here or all the budget input is coming from this area and we see that we’re not touching here, then we need to figure out how to touch over here. So just using all of those pieces to plot and analyze the data. And I’m saying data but it’s really not that sexy, it’s just information. The staff, I think Tracy, has the staff starting to do more community meetings in the wards that are to be communicated with the ward council members, which will allow us to get more direct feedback, aside from just sitting in a desk.
We also, I know that with public comment, I’ve requested for us to start doing at the beginning of ever council meeting or at least most council meetings, for staff or council members to have the opportunity to respond to items that were in public comment, maybe a few meetings before. So that people feel like, okay I said that but where did it go? Even if it’s just saying, “”we heard you, but it’s not something we are going to be able to take up in this budget cycle but we’re going to xyz” or “I hear this is something residents want, but we’re not able to because of xyz” or “we can, but to this degree and this is what you’ll see and what you can expect from us.” That’s the only way that people can hold us accountable and it’s the only way that we can start to measure how successful we are.
Sentinel: What made you run for mayor?
Hollingsworth: Honestly, I felt it was a lack of vision. When I ran for council in 2011, as much as I was a candidate I was also a voter. I was also listening for the mayor candidates at the time to tell us what was their vision for Hyattsville. I don’t expect a person to have all the answers but I want to know what is it that you’re striving to, because I want to know how I can be a part of it. Otherwise, we’re all going along in our separate ideas and sometimes they may match and sometimes they won’t, but we’re all just floating around as individual particles in this thing.
After four years of watching and being involved and seeing for myself where some of the gaps are, I thought that I had a vision for Hyattsville and it’s based on my experience and it’s based on the feedback of people that I have served over the past four years. But having not seen us work towards that for those four years, I feel that while we accomplished some small things and some were really fantastic especially those that Councilor Paschall put forward. I still can’t say what we necessarily accomplished on a grander scale. I feel like I have the skills to be able to do that. I feel that I’ve developed the relationships necessary to hopefully be successful in carrying those out. We have an excellent council. There are 10 great people that are representing the people of Hyattsville, aside from myself and it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come all the time, when you have a good group of people who are really passionate and energetic and you can get a lot done when you have that combination, and also really good staff. I think I’ll do a good job at it, so I’m gonna go for it. Even if I lose, I won’t be on council anymore, but I felt it was worth it.
Part II of a series.