Monday, March 15, 2010

Where Are Our City Council Members?

Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them. Paul Valery

A month or so ago I attended the Easton Block Watch's Annual Reorganization Meeting. As a long-time member of the block watch, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who were in attendance. There was pertinent information disseminated and a very informative presentation by Police Chief Larry Palmer and members of his staff. A very good meeting indeed.

I left the meeting that night pleased with the continued progress within our city, but with one confounding question; Where were our city council members? Not one of them felt the need to show up and spend time with their constituents. What was more important to them than meeting with the people they represent?

I my opinion, and I would love to hear their's, the members of our city council are all but invisible to the people who elected them. I attend numerous meetings and events each year where new programs are introduced and concerned citizens voice their opinions. I count only one time that I saw a member of city council in attendance other than the mayor.

Their glaring absence from neighborhood meetings is a cause for concern. It is in these meetings that real ideas are batted around and discussions provide viable answers. The problem is that if all our city council members are concerning themselves with are the items that show up on a monthly meeting agenda, the voices of the people are never heard.

The simple truth is that our council members were entrusted by us with the power to make decisions on many issues that affect our future. Shouldn't they then display some semblance of concern by showing up at meetings other than their scheduled meetings at City Hall? Don't they owe us the courtesy of hearing our concerns other than the lousy five minutes one is allowed to speak at a council meetings?



Dennis R. Lieb said...

Just to give credit were it's due, El Warner attended the first post-election WW neighborhood meeting at Mike Fleck's house in November. She prefaced her introductory comments by stating that she was there as the public services liason for council and thought she should know what was going on in the neighborhood as far as public service needs were concerned.

About a dozen people attended that meeting so her appearance wasn't widely acknowledged.

I'll make no editorial comments and leave it at that.


Sandra Walters Weiss said...

DRL,I too shall make no comments because I can't control myself,I guess I will just have to wait for the next meeting,the last one I attended had maybe 8 people and I took away nothing but then again I appeared before Council twice and took away nothing. the 8 folks included Mike Fleck and his wife.

noel jones said...

Love the image, Tim!

And I agree, we rarely see our city council members at meetings in a LISTENING capacity. There are members that sit on committees for Weed & Seed and the WWNP, but only in situations where they have a position and a vote. But--credit where credit is due: Aside from the meeting Dennis mentioned, El Warner has reached out to the West Ward both on this blog and in offering to facilitate a meeting of residents with the public works and planning departments re: the new street sweeping program that will start this Spring.

Mike Fleck has held two neighborhood "summits" since he was elected where he has met with residents to hear our concerns and learn what we would like to see on the agenda.

noel jones said...

I wonder when our West Ward City Council meeting will be? Every neighborhood is supposed to have one per year I believe, since Home Rule Charter was voted in...

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says: My reason for not being at the meeting was other city business. Possibly other council members had conflicts as well. I attend meetings every night and knowing that the police chief was going to be there I had him represent the administration. I was at last year's annual meeting and saw no one mentioned here so far. I am glad the residents came out that night and hopefully you joined your block watch group.

As for the WW summit meetings I have never been invited and I don't think any other council members were either. You would have to check with them.

The WW Council Meeting has already been scheduled and when I return I can send it to you.

Thanks for your interest and continued efforts in improving our city.

Tim Pickel said...

Sal, It was mentioned to the crowd that you were at a meeting and would show up if time permitted. My blog was not an indictment on you so please do not take it personally.

I also beg to differ with you on the previous year's meeting. I did attend that meeting which was held in the Acopian Room. I do recall that it was sparsely attended for being the reorganizational meeting.

I stand by my assertion that there is little if any participation by council members at neighborhood meetings. It has been that way for years now and is frustrating to me and to many of my neighbors.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Mayor. Please let us know the date for the West Ward city council meeting as soon you can so that residents can plan ahead to attend.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:

Tim, understood, Thanks. We should also get together beforew you go away again to discuss a few items. I enjoy your perspective on issues.

hopeunseen said...

I walk the streets of our great city, praying, engaging youth, intervening with kids in gangs and just simply talking to and meeting the average working Joe's of our city.

Of the hundreds of hours I've spent pounding the pavement I've never run into an elected official (or for that matter a department head) taking a walk through the Ward they represent, sitting in one of our pocket parks and having lunch, getting into a pick up game with our kids at the courts, shooting the breeze with one of our seniors or simply reading a book in the circle with the 'circle folks.'

There is something deeply human about carving out the time to be a neighbor rather than a person of position. Humbling to be a person of the people rather than a leader of the people and meeting and people where they 'are at' rather than in a meeting.

Yet I have run into Tim while he's out praying, Noel, while on her way to the bus station, Earl while headed downtown, Ray looking for his lost cat, Felix in Dutchtown Park just soaking up the sunshine, my Bloods talking trash on Northampton Street and Ivan trying to make a few bucks as he goes door to door looking to rake some leaves or take someone's garbage out.

Oh the value of what can be learned just from a stroll!

noel jones said...

I saw Tim Pickel on a stroll just today. I also saw our two new neighborhood officers Matt and Russ (they insist on being called by their first names) drive by this morning in their van, and they waved and rolled down their window to chat for a sec, just to be friendly. Another neighbor told me that he saw them out on bikes in the other day and that they stopped to talk to him for a good length of time. Now that's it's warm, I'm hoping to see them out on foot a bit. This shift in approach with residents is really nice to see and I hope it continues.

As for strollers in the neighborhood, I often see Tim & Earl, John & Cathy, Jim & Lynn--I've seen Ghen & Julie out with their dog--it's really great to see people walking the neighborhood more these days. Speaking of which--it is so gorgeous outside today that everybody must get outside for while!

Alan Raisman said...

Please remember that serving as a representative on City Council is only a part time job which pays less than $10,000 a year. This means that those individuals need to work in other capacities making their schedules less flexible.

Because City Council representatives are unable to attend every meeting held within the city, City Council representatives are reaching out to constituents in other ways. Mayor Panto reads and reacts on this blog, and Jeff Warren (at-large councilman) is on Twitter informing those who follow him of meetings and legislation.

There are a lot of meetings in Easton, and the city website should list all of these meetings on a central calendar so people who schedule a new meeting know what times are available. The current City of Easton calendar of events does not list all meetings happening within the city, just those pertaining to the City. Weed and Seed meetings are not listed, EAC team meetings are not listed, and College Hill Neighborhood Association meetings are not listed, just to name a few. There needs to be a way to allow the common person to email an event into the calendar.

We do need more people walking our streets, and as the weather improves, I hope that is the case. I began walking more since two weeks ago, and once I return from D.C. on Sunday, I'll be walking a lot more throughout College Hill and Downtown Easton. I remember walking to Weed and Seed meetings in the West Ward my freshman year, and I hope to do that again as my schedule gets lighter.

We need a greater presence of both City representatives and neighbors at a lot of meetings, but we need to understand that there are only 24 hours in a day, and there are too many meetings to allow anyone to attend every meeting. With the creation of neighborhood representatives on council, we should get our district representative to attend meetings within their district, and we should get our district representatives to inform their constituents of what happens in the city.

noel jones said...

Well said, Alan. A comprehensive community calendar on the city site is a great idea. And our neighborhood reps should attend neighborhood meetings in the areas they represent, while the at large city council members should attend wherever the can and try to hit all neighborhoods in a balance.

El Warner was at the meeting at the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center today for the teens who want to develop a skateboard park. Ken Brown was unable to attend, but sent a letter with his comments, which I have scanned in Downloadable Documents on the upper right hand side bar, in case anyone would like to read it.

Anonymous said...

Well said Alan on behalf of the members of Council. There are many meetings and they do attend a great deal of them. There are other requirements. For example I expected to return from Washington in time for the meeting at the Teen Center but my appointment with Senator Casey was moved to 12:30 which got me back tot he city around 6 at which time I went to the scene of the fatal accident on Northampton Street.

As for the city calaendar you will notice that we are placing other community meetings on the calendar as long as we are aware of them. That list will grow. I will check about emailing right to the calendar event.

As always, thanks for your input and your involvement in our (your adopted) city. I am sure with the warm weather more people will be walking and getting out into the neighborhood. Yesterday's prayer vigil in the West Ward was very well attended.

Today everyone should be at the dedication of the Nehemiah House on the South Side where Greater Shiloh Baptist Church is doing sometthing about our recividism rate here in Northampton County. it is these types of facilites that will give men, especially dads, a second chance at restoring their life as well as their families'.

Enjoy another great day in Easton.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says

The 10:13 post was made by me. sorry for not identifying myself. The prayer vigil yesterday was very well attended and at the vigil I announced a meeting in my office at 3:30 on Thursday that one young man called to make with me. I invite any and all to that meeting.

Today i returned from Greater Shiloh Baptist Church after attending a morning function. They dedicated Nehemiah House today and everyone should have been there. It was a great ceremony and one that the city granted a variance for when many other municipalities are turning agencies down that want to introduce programs to reduce recivididm in our prison.

Nehemiah House will serve as a 6 month to a year transition program for 12 males who are released from prison and agree to go there to enter a return to productive life program that will be faith-based. the goal is not only to keep them from going back to jail but also to make them productive men, fathers and husbands.

Congratulations to all involved.