Bucks County government needs to be more transparent, the Democratic candidates for county commissioner said Thursday, proposing televised night meetings and increased public access to campaign finance reports, full budgets and complete job postings on a beefed-up website.
"We need to make it so the public can understand county government," Det Ansinn said at a Doylestown press conference with his running mate, Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia. "People don't know enough about what's going on."
Ansinn, president of Doylestown Borough Council, and Ellis-Marseglia called for commissioner meetings to be conducted at night instead of the traditional 10 a.m., so people with day jobs could attend. They also proposed televising the meetings on live streaming video and cable, which could require a one-time expense for equipment.
At the meetings, public comment should be allowed after each agenda item, and a public press conference should conclude each session, as was done until four years ago, the Democrats said.
Their plan also calls for increasing information on the county website while maintaining it in-house, saving $20,000. Each department would be responsible for posting information, Ellis-Marseglia said.
Information that needs to be provided includes campaign contributions, the full county budget from the preliminary proposal to the final document, every job opening, all bids and contracts, and full minutes and agendas for all meetings, the Democrats said.
"We need to be transparent, so everyone knows that everyone is being watched and is being held accountable," Ansinn said.
The candidates, who are going against Republican incumbents Charles Martin and Rob Loughery, also said they would trim the Department of Public Information from five staffers to one.
"That department is practically a ministry of propaganda," Ellis-Marseglia said. "We need to get rid of the self promotion."
She said the department's press releases routinely leave out her comments.
Information Director Chris Edwards "categorically and unconditionally" disputed the charge.
"We noted every one of her votes," Edwards said. "We provided support staff for Commissioner Marseglia's Diversity Conference, and we extended every courtesy to her office."
The department will come in about $225,000 under its $726,000 budget, Edwards said. The web content administrator's job has been vacant, and a $70,000 to $80,000 website redesign was put on hold, he explained.
Martin said the department does much more than maintaining the website and issuing press releases, such as scheduling and preparing for events.
"You don't want people putting up information on the website at will," he said.
Martin and Loughery said that some of the Democrats proposals could be considered and implemented, but they dismissed most points as political posturing.
"We have all 328 pages of the budget on the website," said Martin, who is completing his fourth term. "Last year, we had a night budget meeting, and zero people showed up."