Marshfield city government strives to be more transparent with community

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 7:11 PM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - The city of Marshfield is making an effort to be more transparent and have better communication not only within the city government but with the public.

At the Oct. 27 common council meeting, the Communications Department proposed a new communication plan between city officials and the public to help build trust with residents and to keep folks informed on every platform.

“We’re just trying to get more communication to the citizens so they know what is taking place,” Marshfield Mayor Bob McManus said.

In a time where information is right at your fingertips, the City of Marshfield feels they need to look toward the future and inform the public about the latest city updates on not just traditional media, but social media and their website as well.

“I don’t look at the communications department being just its own department. Communications is everybody here, it’s the council, it’s the people out here, it’s all the departments, all the workers,” Marshfield Communications Director Tom Loucks said.

The communications plan would cover all departments in the city hall including streets, wastewater, and Parks and Recreation.

However, the plan does not cover the library, the fire department, or the police department, which was a hot topic for people living in Marshfield at the common council meeting on Oct. 13.

“We have a [police] chief under investigation not once but twice, now on extended leave,” one Marshfield resident said in frustration of the city’s lack of transparency.

However, McManus and Marshfield City Administrator Steve Barg said there is confidential information inside the police department that can’t always be shared publicly.

Despite this, with the new communication plan, Barg and McManus feel the city will be held more accountable and this will allow them to tell the public everything they can that is not confidential.

“If we don’t tell the public these kinds of things, they think we’re not being transparent. So even in the midst of what we can’t tell them, we owe it to them to tell them why we can’t tell them,” Barg said.

According to the plan, it’s their goal to provide a more positive atmosphere for everyone, increase community engagement, become more efficient, receive fewer complaints, and ultimately provide better customer service.

“We provide services and we need to be acting like a business in terms of how we market and sell what we do and how we put out information about how people can tap into us and access our services,” Barg said.

Barg said he understands the public may not be as in tune with city news as elected officials are.

The common council also discussed the creation of an ethics committee on Oct. 27.

The committee will ensure elected officials are not abusing their power and will provide a service to the public, and would ensure the common council is doing everything as ethically as possible, to also ensure transparency in Marshfield.

“This committee is really going to be there to go ‘ok, is this politically motivated or is this something that we really need to look into’ and it gives them a procedure to go through,” McManus said.

The ethics committee would be a non-partisan group that consists of two Marshfield citizens elected by the common council and one member from the wood county bar association.

Both the communications and ethics plans will be voted on at their next common council meeting in November.

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