By Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport
In a couple of weeks, newly elected and re-elected city officials take office. There was quite a bit of turnover during the municipal election cycle. In Pascagoula, for instance, not only will there be a new mayor but all six members of the city council are also newly elected.
But even if some of the faces are new, many of the problems remain the same.
During our extensive interviews with mayoral candidates this year we repeatedly heard concerns about city finances. Even in cities that seem to be doing well, candidates wanted to do better.
We encourage officials to be on the lookout for new opportunities for their communities. But we would also caution them to pay close attention to the assets they already possess. New and returning officeholders should pay particular attention to maintenance costs and operating expenses, especially in connection with those bigger facilities built following Hurricane Katrina.
Speaking of Katrina, we hope everyone at city hall is familiar with their city’s emergency management plan.
Finally, we encourage every elected official to do all he or she can to promote openness in the operation of their city government. As the Open Meetings Act states: “It being essential to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government and to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner, and that citizens be advised of and be aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of Mississippi that the formation and determination of public policy is public business and shall be conducted at open meetings … .”
So that’s our advice: Keep the books balanced, the emergency plans updated and the meetings open to the public.