Once a quarter the Keizer City Council uses one of its work session meetings to take a tour of a different set of city parks. They see first-hand the parks, the amenities and get a report from the public works director about on-going or upcoming plans.
The city councilors should take this idea out into the city and tour Keizer neighborhoods first hand, as well.
Such tours by the city councilors and members of the city staff would show they know their Keizer neighborhoods. It would also demonstrate to residents that their elected and city officials are as concerned about different areas of the community as they are about parks, urban renewal districts and other issues.
Walking tours four times a year would put city leaders right where their constituents live, allowing citizens to interact with councilors in a way that is less intimidating than in a city council meeting setting.
Councilors would see for themselves any problems out in the city, such as a street in need of repair, blocked sidewalks, crosswalks and curbs in need of repainting. They would see any residential intersections in need of sight-line trimming or pruning. Such tours would engender better relations between city government and Keizer residents.
City tours should also include business districts. Driving along River Road is one thing, but walking the length of the city’s main arterial at least once a year would give councilors a pedestrian-eye view. They would get a close-up look at what visitors see when they drive down River Road. If what the councilors see in reality is not equal to their visions, hopefully they would see what issues need to be addressed, be it adjustments to the sign code, maintenance on both public and private property.
The public likes visits to their neighborhood by the people they elect. Instead of a bunch of bureaucrats coming and saying “We’re from the government and we’re here to help,” the message that should come through loud and clear is: “You elected us and we’re here to listen and to look.”
There are many issues the city council must tackle throughout the year. Getting out into the city en masse shouldn’t be seen as a chore but as an honorable opportunity to connect with the city they lead.