IN THE RING: How to stay on top of public hearings

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We asked our panel:
“What tools should the city use to inform residents of public hearings on issues that affect Keizer?”

Jeanne Bond-Esser, retired educator and parks board chair:
“Clearly, the information is ‘out there’ (on the City website, for instance), but that’s not really the difficulty so much as getting the attention of people who might be interested — and sometimes getting technical language translated into what it might mean in ‘real life.’
 
“But everyone can’t pay attention to everything all the time just in case something relevant might come up. We lead busier lives than that. So, we have to rely on a few to keep on top of things, direct our attention, and maybe put it in plain language.
 
“For me, that’s the Keizertimes (on Friday, or a bit earlier on their website) and my neighborhood association (West Keizer) via e-mails and monthly meetings.

Jim Willhite and Pat Ehrlich, vice presidents, Gubser Neighborhood Association:
“The Keizertimes is an excellent source of information on what is going on in the city and decisions that are being considered. Additionally the city web page, which already indicates actions being considered by the city, could be used even more as an information resource. 

“The final resource we have in the city for informing people is Keizer 23.  It would seem this would be another resource that could be used more effectively.

“But once informed, citizens need to be sure actions they take are relevant to the issue at hand. Watching the Monday, April 19,  Council meeting was painful at best. The issue of the public hearing was about a process yet most of the testimony given was totally unrelated to the process changes being considered.  We need to read the notice information carefully, determine the issue and then respond to the issue. We commend the patience of the council on Monday in letting everyone signed up for the public hearing to make their statements even though they didn’t impact the decision about to be made.”

Kevin Hohnbaum, co-founder, Keep Keizer Livable
“I see three issues around communciation – style, frequency and clarity.  Using websites and email to share information is a style that works for some people.  Printed notification in the Keizertimes and other sources works for some people and other folks respond to direct mail  or personal discussions.  Our city should use all styles to communciate to neighbors who may be directly impacted by the decisions under consideration.  In the the case you used for your example, Mayor christopher responded saying “I knew as soon as I saw this text amendment would affect Area C that we’d have neighbors out to see us”.  Why not be proactive in communicating with those neighbors?
 
“Communicating too often lowers response rates.  It’s a fine line to give the information needed when necessary without spamming people with too much.
 
“A recent  Planning Commission agenda listed the following:

“1.           PUBLIC HEARING: Text Amendments: Section 2.102 Residential Single Family; Section 2.430 Water Supply; Section 3.112 Annexations
 
“What does this mean?  Who is going to be affected?  How does this impact our neighborhood?  Clarity of communication is vital to understanding.  Absence of clear communication leads to misunderstanding.”

John Blake, Willow Lake Nursery:
“Perhaps a reader board should have been built at the new city hall for travelers down Chemawa road instead of all the other amenities.  Better yet, a weekly posting in the Keizer times or a information board on River Road to let all of us working our tails off that things are happening at city hall that need our input. Interesting to see how some text amendments , zone changes, and land acquisitions occur without too much trouble.  Guess I’ll have to start going back to council meetings.”

Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting:
“One must ask whose responsibility is it to inform the citizens. Is it the city manager, city staff, the mayor or possibly city council members? I believe it is all of the above and more. This is a two-way street. Neighborhoods must also step up to the plate. How does a specific neighborhood know what will impact them? Putting a notice on a city website and asking for input by email doesn’t necessarily inform a community.

“Neighborhood needs are changing. Keizer might consider announcing public hearings and notices grouped by neighborhood. Local radio stations, newspapers, professional and civic organizations also need to be part of the solution.

“Improving a community is everyone’s responsibility. If a community is to work, it is in the best interest of its citizens to learn how to get involved.”

Jacque Moir, retired city councilor:
“Buy the Keizertimes, check the City’s web site be proactive, don’t expect personal notice invitations.”

Marlene Quinn, event planner:
“The Keizertimes, the internet, the weekly Keizer insert, the water bill and the Keizer quarterly that comes out to residents. If that isn’t sufficient then people aren’t paying attention and they have no right to complain. It’s always important to know the issues especially if they affect your neighborhood or your tax base. Pay attention citizens. You do have a right to be heard.”

Vic Backlund, former GOP state representative and retired educator:
“”An all-encompassing answer would be that all tools should be used to inform residents of public hearings!  More specifically, the City will surely continue to use city council meetings, cable TV and The Keizertimes.  In addition, neighborhood association meetings, notices in neighborhood publications as well as posting notices in the areas where the issues will have an effect are possibilities that come to mind.  Further, a city councilor–or a staff person–could be appointed (logically by the Mayor) to personally contact a relatively small number of people who live in the neighborhood that the public hearing will affect–and ask those neighborhood folks to directly contact others.
 
“One other thought:  Keizer citizens have a citizenship duty to inform themselves and/or pay attention to what is happening in Keizer.  In other words, citizens themselves should be actively seeking information on city business.”

Frank Pauley, MoveOn.org activist and retired educator:
“Buy the Keizertimes is good, the Statesman Journal also has carried articles about what the council is doing. Mailings with the water sewer bills works. Maybe going out in the community and let people know firsthand.”

Phil Bay, former city councilor and retired insurance agent:
“Anyone living in keizer and on city services should be getting a monthly bill for water and sewer services. Perhaps all land use decisions to be made should be included in those bills. Also public television is availabe to those with cable television, and all city coucil meetings are being televised, and can be viewed for most from home. And of course they can read the Keizertimes, and, or, that other newspaper.”

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1 Response for “IN THE RING: How to stay on top of public hearings”

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