We're now about halfway through the second round of community meetings. These are the meetings organized and run by the Director of Planning and Development, in which residents of each ward gather to discuss the issues affecting their ward, and perhaps generate some ideas of how the city could deal with these issues.
The second meeting for Ward 3 was held last Tuesday evening. Unlike the last meeting, for which residents had same day notice, at least this one was advertised well in advance, although I do find it rather inexplicable that the notice in the paper didn't give either the date, time or location, but rather referred readers to the city web-page or facebook page for further information - an extra step that residents shouldn't have to go through.
About 20 residents were at this meeting - a drop from about 30 at the first meeting. Some of that might have been because this meeting was just to report on what was said at the first meeting, so there was no real opportunity to move forward. Once again, issues raised weren't anything that I haven't raised at council many times - the need for more visible police presence, concerns about boarded up houses, and concerns about infrastructure maintenance, largely roads and sidewalks. Unfortunately, no other city staff were there to provide substantive answers.
There will be another round of meetings in the new year, where it is planned for the appropriate city staff to attend. I hope that these meetings will provide some of the answers that residents should have, and not just result in the same old issues being raised.
I do think that there is value to having these meetings, but they need to be structured to provide more useful information about what the current situation is, and identify opportunities for improvement. That would give some sense that the city plans on addressing these issues, not just providing an opportunity to vent. I think that those running the meetings also need to be aware of some of the things that have been tried in the past, not suggest things like Community Watch as though Midtown residents haven't already been there, done that.
I think that the first two meetings had reasonable turnout, but people will not continue to come to meetings if they don't see that their issues are being addressed and their ideas are given consideration. Their time is more valuable than that. People have many good ideas on how to improve their neighbourhood; it's up to the city to take action to make improvements happen.
"I think there needs to be a meeting to set an agenda for more meetings about meetings." - Jonah Goldberg