More participation needed

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

A few dozen ordinary citizens showed up to community visioning meetings earlier this week to help direct the city’s comprehensive plan update.

The process, which must be undertaken every five years, forms the plan that guides the city’s development patterns and associated infrastructure, such as utilities and schools.

With City Council members, Planning Commission members, comprehensive plan advisory committee members and city consultants in the room, the residents got the chance to voice their concerns on topics ranging from types of development (too many warehouses, some said) to transportation (not enough options, others said).

Email newsletter signup

But it wasn’t just talk — the residents were given opportunities to fill out a survey on what type of planning and development they value and participate in exercises designed to get their opinions of types of development that would or would not be appropriate in Suffolk and where those developments should go.

It’s refreshing to see so many folks showing up at the meetings to participate, especially given the fact that about two dozen pressed through the foul weather that was occurring on Tuesday evening to attend. But it remains to be seen whether the officials will actually listen to the views expressed during these meetings.

Among many Suffolk citizens, there is a pervasive attitude that it doesn’t matter what the ordinary people say because the government will do what it wants anyway. In years past, it was not unheard of for nobody but city staff and the media to show up at public comment periods held during the budget process.

We hope the moderately strong attendance at these comprehensive plan meetings signals a changing attitude, both in the motivation of citizens to participate and the willingness of city officials to listen. We would like to see more public participation as the process continues, but this was a good start.