Dear Fishers neighbor,

I was sworn in to represent you as an At-Large member of the Fishers City Council on January 21, 2020. Today, April 29, marks the first 100 days of my service and a good time to share an update with you. Throughout my campaign and the past three months, my priorities have not changed. I am here to amplify your voice to our city decision-makers, serve as a check on the City Council majority, and open the door to our local government so that all residents are informed and can participate as they wish. During these days of CoronaVirus, I believe that these priorities are more important than ever.

Amplifying Your Voice

One of my favorite aspects of serving as a City Council member was having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Fishers residents. Before social distancing, I held weekly open office hours and invited Fishers residents to stop by to chat. I met dozens of people, from all walks of life, who shared with me their concerns and all the things that they love about our city, too. I realized this: Many, many people really care about our city. I now have 100 days’ worth of residents’ comments that I gathered through phone calls, emails, social media, Ask Me Anything live videos, coffee chats, and chance meetings in grocery store parking lots. I facilitated connections with residents and the city staff members who could directly provide them assistance. Along the way, I learned a lot about specific issues that Fishers residents care about most.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, I will focus on important issues that residents tell me mean the most to them. Some of these specific issues today include:

  • 5G small cell tower installations in neighborhoods
  • Nickel Plate Trail construction
  • New development
  • Residents’ taxes and municipal fiscal responsibility/accountability
  • and, of course, CoronaVirus and its on-going effects on our community’s health, well-being and economy

I naturally bring my own experiences and viewpoints into decision-making as a small business owner and longtime community volunteer, but as a City Council member, I will always act on the guidance I receive from residents. I’m here to be your voice. That’s why, despite social distancing and the cancellation of coffee chats, I crave your feedback, questions, and concerns. My goal continues to be to accurately and meaningfully amplify your voice. Email me at varej@fishers.in.us or leave me a message at 888-518-7117. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Checks and Balance

When I was running for City Council in 2019, I stated repeatedly that I was an independent thinker and would not be a member of the Mayor’s rubber-stamping team of city councilors. I strongly believe that my role as your representative is to provide critical oversight of the Mayor’s administration, a responsibility other members on the council have historically chosen to abdicate. It’s painfully obvious from my experience over the past 100 days that any kind of meaningful scrutiny is very uncomfortable and threatening to those city leaders who aren’t accustomed to being held accountable. That’s been very disappointing because I don’t think that kind of attitude lends itself well to thoughtful leadership.

Let’s be clear: I’m not seeking to be generally obstinate or automatically oppose every decision that Mayor Fadness makes. That wouldn’t be fair or helpful to Fishers residents. Instead, I ask questions, demand all the information necessary for me to make diligent decisions, and insist that the Mayor at least listen to other perspectives. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I continue to be optimistic that the Mayor and his team of city councilors will one day see this not as a threat but instead an opportunity for cooperation. I know that cooperation, not rubber stamps, is what will serve our community best.

If a decision that impacts over 90,000 residents is truly the right thing to do, it should be able to withstand a little bit of scrutiny­. In fact, in my experience, a little bit of scrutiny often makes decisions better! I promise that I will continue to ask the necessary questions of our city government. As long as I always stay centered in residents’ best interests and communicate respectfully, I know I’m doing the right thing.

Opening the Door

I am pleased to say that there have been real improvements made in the past 100 days that have cracked the door a little wider between our local government and the residents that it serves. I pursued removing obstacles that made participation and observation of city council actions inaccessible to residents.

I encouraged the following action steps: TV monitors at City Council meetings so that residents who attend can see the meeting better; a verbal commitment by the city council leadership that discussion would always be opened before a matter is voted on; and public posting of city council actions promptly after meetings.

I would like to especially thank the City Clerk and city staff members in the IT and PR Departments for implementing these improvements. These small steps go a long way to help Fishers residents engage with their local government. Thank you.

Unfortunately, one of my surprises in the past 100 days is the continued difficulty in accessing information. I’m still not clear why there should be any difficulty. It’s very concerning to me that sharing basic information in a timely manner is not an already established practice for our city government. But I know two things. I’m resourceful, and I eventually do hunt down the information that I am entitled to. But if it’s this difficult for me, it’s absolutely unfair for any resident. We have a lot more to do to ensure our city government is transparent and accessible to all. I will continue chipping away at this, and I will always share the information I gather so that you can be informed too.

I am looking forward to the next hundreds of days as I continue to serve the community as an at-large member of the City Council. It is a privilege to represent you. Please reach out to me and let me know your ideas, complaints, thoughts, and joys. Diversity of thinking and perspectives will serve our city well – now more than ever. This is YOUR city.

Keep doing good and being well.
Thank you,
-Jocelyn

varej@fishers.in.us
voicemail) 888-518-7117

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