Increasing efficiency and encouraging participation are keys to city's success
Note: This post was first published on Med City Beat's Facebook page.
"Tonight was a trainwreck."
Those were the words of councilor Nick Campion following a record-breaking nine-plus hour meeting Monday night at Rochester City Hall. Members of the public were stuck in their seats until the wee hours of Tuesday morning waiting to speak on challenging subjects such as police body cameras and TNCs (Uber).
Blame for this embarrassment lies not on any specific individual or topic, but on the broken process that allowed this to happen. It discourages civic engagement when a governing body does not provide clear time slots for public hearings of high interest. Most people, no matter how passionate, do not have the luxury to stay up past 3 a.m. to give their thoughts on an ordinance proposal.
This morning may, on the surface, seem like an anomaly. But, in fact, it is a sign of things to come. Rochester will continue to deal with growing pains as it emerges into a larger and more competitive city. And in the coming years, hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested here. A large portion of that will come from the taxpayers. There is no doubt issues of intense scrutiny will arise and require lengthy public testimony and debate by the council. We should allow time for the discussion and empower both citizens and interested parties to speak up.
The city needs to be more intentional than ever about addressing weaknesses in its processes, many of which were designed before the advent of the Internet. Creating ways to increase efficiency and encourage participation will be critical to the city's long-term success.
In regards to the city council agendas, I would propose giving issues of significant public interest their own time slots or night. It is ludicrous to make people sit and listen to simple zoning requests for four hours before finally addressing multi-million-dollar developments, government transparency and the introduction of revolutionary technology.
That's just one thought, with an acknowledgement there may be others out there far better. I just want to keep the conversation going.
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(Cover graphic: The Med City Beat)