Public Engagement & Live Event Recap
Council Corner: Public Engagement & Live Event Recap
By Jon Anderson, Town Councilor & Communications Committee Chair
The Council and the Town try very hard to communicate to the public and have made great strides over recent years. However, there are always opportunities for improvement, especially as it relates to effective two-way communication and dialogue between the Council and the residents. There are many mechanisms today where residents can participate in the decision making process and engage the Council. You can come to a public meeting and offer public comment, attend our town committees, email the Town Council at firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply pick up the phone and call us - our phone numbers are listed on the town website (if you text me you will likely hear back faster!).
While we have many avenues to engage the residents, the Communications Committee felt the need to pilot a new way to engage residents with no agenda or formal structure, but simply pick a topic and invite the community to engage with their elected officials in a conversation. Hence, Councilor Corner Live was born!
Councilor Sither and I hosted the first Councilor Corner Live on March 31. We REALLY jumped into the deep end and decided to focus on growth. Growth is a complex topic with a variety of viewpoints. People often feel passionate on this topic, and that passion is ultimately driven by their personal values and what matters to them - the schools, the environment, traffic, access to resources, impact to taxes, new amenities like a town center, etc.
We had approximately 50 residents participate in-person and virtually. I was overjoyed to see such a high turnout. The overwhelming viewpoint expressed by attendees was concern around the pace of growth. This was not a surprise, given that in our recent community survey 73% of residents stated they have concerns regarding the pace of growth in the Town. There was also a lot of concern expressed regarding the growth exemption proposed by the Downs. This exemption request is still under consideration by the Town Council and negotiations are underway to see if agreeable terms can be reached that deliver sufficient public benefit to Scarborough to justify the growth.
There will be tradeoffs that need to be considered, and I will weigh the benefits and consequences along with public opinion to determine my decision. Right now, I do not have those benefits articulated in a manner that allows me to make that judgment, but I have heard you loud and clear from both the survey and Councilor Corner Live that there is a real concern around how the Town is managing growth. As terms come forward and the Council deliberates this exemption further, I’d love to hear from you.
Given the success of the Councilor Corner Live, we plan to continue these forums. The next one will be in June, as this month will be focused on joint Budget Roundtables with the School Board. Our budget also reflects the values of the Town and largely addresses the community needs indicated in the survey results. I hope you will join us to hear more and give your thoughts whether this budget reflects your values. See the dates/details listed above. I hope to see you there!
What topics would you like to discuss at the next Councilor Corner Live? Text me at (703) 946-0385 and the Communications Committee will suggest a topic to the Council in May.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.