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Friday, February 7, 2014

Communication is Key

Successful preparation for a community meeting surrounding a development, controversial or not, lies in the details-the most important of which is ensuring that proper notification of meeting information be given to abutters in a timely manner. Recently, however, that ball is being dropped more consistently than not and it is time that this be changed.

There is nothing worse than being accused of not informing your constituents of a community meeting, being called-out on Twitter and having a resident write accusatory notes on meeting flyers comes in a close second and third, but the initial accusation certainly stings the most. Feelings of mistrust are at the forefront of citizens' minds and, before they lay an eye on an architect's rendering, constituents feel that they're being swindled. Not a very good first impression to make, regardless, of how many projects you have overseen or meetings you have attended.

A detailed process of notifying abutters must be put in place in order to regain the confidence of development-fatigued Somerville residents. Stat. Through ordinance or mandated by the Planning Department, proper notification of community meetings should mirror that of Zoning and Planning meetings, including, flier drop/mailing weeks in advance, notice sent to newspapers and community websites, inclusion on social media sites, and a sign posted at the site.

This bare-minimal list is a better start to the inefficient methods of yesterday and would cover all bases of notification for these increasingly important, face-to-face gatherings that connect residents to the happenings of their neighborhood. Asking Aldermen to include this information on email and neighborhood-based listservs can also be a successful approach to engage and inform.

Doing everything possible to properly report to residents the changes in the streetscape of their neighborhood eliminates mistrust and produces much more fruitful conversations about development where residents feel integrated in the process. This course of action does not guarantee that a project will be accepted, but it certainly sets a tone of transparency and inclusion that is always accepted and appreciated.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more! I really do wish you were still on the board--you actually cared about the people. Next time?

Anonymous said...

It really depends on who the attorney is. Rich does a decent job, but has been failing lately. Having something set in stone is a good way to even the playing field. Great article!

Anonymous said...

Please run for mayor

Anonymous said...

I agree. Notification should be given in advance and then a reminder the day before through the robo-call system. They notify us about everything else but not that. I think that you should run for alderman or mayor. You care about the people in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment. I miss seeing you on the board and felt you were the most articulate one up there. I have seen very little substantial legislation from our current alderman but heard his big issue is the budget. What about the rest of the year?? What about the residents??

Anonymous said...

As a recipient of one of the-ummm-modified notes, I felt it was nothing more than a political stunt by a supporter of your opponent. Needless to say, I lost respect for your opponent and for the smart ass who wrote it. Funny she didn't even come to more than one meeting.