There has been a lot of talk lately about vacant and adjoining building ordinances. People have provided an earful to the City Council, mayor, and city administration.
Social media has been abuzz with thoughts and discourses. Varying members of our great citizenry have found something to come out of the woodwork on and state their opinions.
You know what I think of all this sentiment? All of this public dialogue? All of this organizing, analyzing and watchfulness? GREAT!
Let me take you back two years ago, to the build up to the spring 2014 primary election. As you may well remember, the city was going to be voting on a half-cent sales tax increase to fund roads projects. Changes to state road and street funding formulas had caused the city to scale back on projects identified in our One and Six Year Road Plan.
To keep up with and maintain ever-declining infrastructure, the city put the issue before the voters. I was (un)lucky enough to be drafted to present an informational presentation as well as a question and answer session at the Carnegie Building. The meeting was announced on the radio and invites were sent out via email.
To my dismay, when I arrived all I saw were members of the media, government representatives, and one single solitary interested citizen. I put on my presentation and answered all the questions the citizen had to the best of my knowledge. I walked away wondering, where were people? Had everyone already made up their mind? Where was the disconnect?
Fast forward to three weeks ago. I was invited to the Black Crow Restaurant to speak with a few interested citizens and put on a question and answer session regarding the vacant and adjoining ordinances. We had a rousing discussion with fifteen or so interested property owners.
I informed them of upcoming amendments which may be proposed. They had hard hitting, relevant and poignant questions for me. They wanted to discuss and explore alternatives and came prepared to participate and listen. I tried to play a little devil’s advocate with them on a number of items and see where the discussion would take us.
This was a 1,400 percent increase in turnout for one of my Q&A sessions. It was put together on short notice and I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. I want to personally thank those who took time out of their afternoons that day to come and chat with me or just to come and listen to the discussion.
It is this participation with our local government which will ultimately produce the results which will carry us all forward. The continued public discord on items of local importance and necessity will be the blast furnace from which policy and program can be generated. The city is continuing to forge our citywide strategic plan, we are preparing for our next downtown revitalization plan this summer, and we will be implementing new projects throughout the coming year. I encourage your active participation in these coming programs and projects.
I will leave you with a final thought on participation from my favorite president, Theodore Roosevelt, from his famous 1910 address: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”