In just over two months, Killeen residents will pick four members to the City Council.
In the meantime, voters, you have a job to do: Tell the candidates what you want.
It’s a simple proposition, really.
When enough people voice their concerns, the candidates will usually listen.
That principle was evident during last summer’s budget hearings, when Killeen residents packed City Hall to express their displeasure with the city’s troubled finances and to demand a full forensic audit to track what happened to cause a projected multimillion-dollar shortfall.
Council members heard their concerns and responded by cutting spending and delaying purchases, effectively bridging the budget gap and protecting the city’s emergency reserves.
But when the council considered a cut in library funding that threatened to close one of the city’s two facilities, residents complained loudly. The council subsequently agreed to a modified plan that preserved the city’s two-library setup.
As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
But despite a lot of squeaking from the public lately, the council has moved away from its initial pledge to conduct a forensic audit, in favor of a less-intensive investigation.
As the campaign for council seats gets underway, now is the time for the public to demand the audit they were promised. A Killeen Daily Herald online poll last week showed that 82 percent of respondents opposed the council’s plan to opt for a less-intensive “management audit.”
If residents want a full-fledged audit, they need to say so.
Residents also should demand more accountability on city contracts, such as the open-ended contract for security systems the city has with G4S Technology. Or the decision to retain an Oregon-based consulting firm to help improve air service — though the firm has consulted with the airport during the past three years, which all saw declining passenger counts.
The city’s voters should call for transparency in the city’s agreement to pay $30 million toward a water treatment plant it won’t own, but will finance largely through money from ratepayers.
Residents deserve to know the backgrounds of contractors working for Killeen — what are the terms of their contracts and how many other jobs have they done for the city?
Ultimately, residents should expect open and honest communication from their council members whenever a major expenditure is considered — and they should demand to know where the money is coming from to pay for it.
In three of the four Killeen district council races, incumbents are seeking re-election. All three have challengers. The fourth district race is contested as well.
Voters deserve council members who will be “hands-on” regarding issues affecting the city’s taxpayers, who have a solid understanding of municipal finances and are committed to transparency and accountability in government.
As such, it’s incumbent upon the voters to familiarize themselves with the candidates and ask them the hard questions.
After all, the upcoming campaign is more than electioneering; it’s a job interview, and voters will be doing the hiring.
The Herald is committed to giving voters the information they need to make informed choices in the upcoming city election — and it’s a large field of candidates.
The Herald will sponsor a political forum featuring candidates for Killeen City Council. It’s scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 27 at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. Mark you calendars now.
The Herald also will provide candidate bios and video interviews on its website kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.
Throughout the campaign, the Herald will dig into the issues that affect the city’s voters and ask residents what they want in a city council.
Finally, the Herald will publish an Election Guide in the April 9 edition, featuring side-by-side Q&As so voters can compare candidates’ responses on the issues.
Voters, it’s your city. This is your election.
It’s time to take charge.