Jul 2, 2014

How to go to a City Council Meeting

Last night I went to my very first City Council Meeting. I've never been involved in city government before, so going to a council meeting was outside my realm of experience and a little intimidating. However, I felt it was important to support our neighborhood so I went and had a great time! Here's the inside look:

The building where the city council meets is between the Covey Center and the Police Station. (350 W Center St.) I parked in their big lot on 100 South, then went inside and just followed the signs to the Council Chambers, where the meetings are held. It was more formal than I was expecting, with somewhat of a courtroom atmosphere. It reminded me of 4-H meetings growing up!

The two main things discussed were the South Downtown Community Development Project Area and the Joaquin Neighborhood plan. Everything that was discussed was opened up to the public at some point to make comments on. I felt like the council was interested in what people had to say and tried to address concerns...I might have been nodding off after a couple hours but the councilmen and woman were still trying to stay sharp! If you want to make comments to the council, you have to go to a podium with a microphone front and center, which is a little intimidating. You state your name and address then give your comment. You can also write it down beforehand if you want. It was a little hard to hear some people, I don't know if it was their nerves or just not standing close enough to the microphone.

Also, these meetings are long! Some people brought a book, knitting, phones, etc. to while away the dry parts of the proceedings. Apparently these meetings can go much longer than the 3 hours it lasted last night, but it is pretty easy to come and go as you please.

I loved seeing so many people from my neighborhood and hearing their comments and concerns. It makes me proud to be part of such a caring community.

Some things that came up were:
The problem of the vacant warehouse in our neighborhood. (Ernie's Market).
Safety issues--the intersection near the Village, pedestrian safety crossing streets, etc.
Preserving historic homes in our neighborhood
The owner of Brick Oven wanting an exemption from the proposed zoning in the plan so he doesn't have to build retail along with student housing.

I was impressed with comments made by our neighborhood chairperson, Leo Lines. He chose to focus on safety as the place to start implementing the neighborhood plan, and had some good suggestions for funding for these ideas. 

If you have a problem with something in the neighborhood or city, I suggest that you contact Stephen Hales on the city council. Not only does he live in the neighborhood, but I felt like other council members respected his viewpoint and calm demeanor. Follow the council blog! Follow them on Facebook! See when the next meeting is, all here.

Some final words: Going to a council meeting is like taking a behind-the-scenes tour. It will help you understand how the city functions and help you feel more in control of the decisions that affect you.


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