Almost every candidate who runs for Bend City Council says something along the lines of: “I want to get residents more involved in city government.” And sure enough, the new Bend City Council followed up with goals including — community participation.
But it’s off to a wobbly start.
Monday morning, we checked for the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting of an official city-appointed committee — Bend’s Neighborhood Leadership Alliance.
The agenda wasn’t there.
The alliance is made up of the leaders of the city’s official neighborhood associations. “It’s a direct and continuing means for neighborhood association constituent participation and input to the City Council from a neighborhood and community perspective,” the city says. Councilors singled out neighborhood associations in their goals, saying they wanted to support their effectiveness.
It wasn’t until after we sent emails to city staff asking why there was no agenda, though, that the agenda appeared.
A fundamental step to getting the community involved is to let the community know what is going on. And if you want members of the community to show up and participate, it’s even better to let them know in advance. Otherwise, using the neighborhood associations as a means of gathering representative public input is a sham.
State law actually requires notice of a meeting “include a list of the principal subjects anticipated to be considered at the meeting.” The list “should be specific enough to permit members of the public to recognize the matters in which they are interested,” according to the Oregon’s official manual on public meetings.
State law doesn’t say anything about what time of day a meeting should be scheduled. But if you want the public to show up, you wouldn’t schedule it during normal work hours, right? The neighborhood leadership alliance meeting is at 4 p.m. on a normal workday. Hmmm.
It’s one thing for councilors to make a list of fine-sounding goals. It’s another thing to show they are serious about them.