POPE’S VIEW: City’s mobility plans demand public engagement of all citizens

Anyone who read The St. Augustine Record on Monday and has any business downtown probably spit up their coffee at the idea that Cathedral Place, a main vehicle link through downtown, would become a walking street.

 

I didn’t react that way. I just thought the very idea is nuts. I still do.

I was glad to hear City Commissioner Leanna Freeman speak up, too, on this not being official city policy. On Tuesday, I talked to Mayor Nancy Shaver who said that it was premature at best and had not been vetted by the commission.

I am glad ideas are floating and in public view. It’s important for residents and businesses who have a big stake in downtown’s mobility. I would rather know now that someone thinks closing a main artery through the core of the downtown is an option, than to find out almost at the end of the public decision-making process when minds are already made up.

I expect the city’s upcoming street network analysis to suggest how the city may deal with downtown traffic. I believe that all citizens should want to be in on critical decisions that impact their daily lives.

My suggestions for how to stay in the loop apply to all interactions with local governments follow.

• Don’t assume anything is off the table or a done deal before the vote is taken.

• Create a public record of any contact and conversation with government officials by sending a follow-up email recapping what you heard in a conversation, and copy it to the governing board (in this case the City Commission, the ultimate decision-makers, the people voters put in the big chairs). Do this so that you are part of the ongoing conversation, future updates on your topic, and prior notifications of meetings on the topic.

• Backstop your process by signing up for the local governments’ public notices email. The city posts one every week called News and Notes. Subscribe at info@citystaug.com. It updates the public on events, meetings and workshops. It comes out on Friday mornings.

• Get familiar with the city’s Mobility link on the website. It goes back to the start of all this mobility stuff but it is worth noting: www.citystaug.com/government/public_works/mobility.

• Offer to provide background beforehand on your issue, face to face. Attend the meetings and workshops on your topic or, send a designated spokesperson for the cause to be there.

• Speak up. Speak out. Don’t hide in the shadows. It’s St. Augustine’s quality of life and its economy at stake.

Margo C. Pope was associated with The St. Augustine Record for 24 of her 42 years with Morris Publishing Group. She retired in 2012 as The Record’s editorial page editor.

 


 

Margo C. Pope was associated with The St. Augustine Record for 24 of her 42 years with Morris Publishing Group. She retired in 2012 as The Record’s editorial page editor.

 


 

 

More