One of the hardest things about trying to make a difference in our neighborhood is having to “be there” at the many important meetings where neighborhood issues are discussed. Between last Thursday and this Thursday, there were four important meetings: the DDOT Cleveland Park Streetscape & Drainage meeting, the ANC3C meeting, the CP Library design meeting, and the CPCA Beach Drive/Connecticut Ave traffic meeting. Not a great week to be stuck in Miami on a business trip. Or to have a kid with a fever. How about both 😦
Life happens, but that should not have to diminish our access to timely information, our ability to ask questions and to provide necessary feedback. The connected-ness made possible by the Internet means we can all be virtually up to speed on what is happening.
This was a major underlying issue in CPCA election back in 2009. The people with the ability to attend all meetings are not reflective of the neighborhood’s population. That was true then, and it is true today. As a result, the voice of the community becomes the voice of those who can show up.
One advancement in communications that anyone who follows the 2016 elections can attest to is ubiquity of live streaming. Anyone with a cell phone is now a broadcaster. This technology can be applied to all of our local meetings, but especially to the official meetings of the ANC and its committees. Just up Connecticut Ave is ANC3F. That group no only live streams their meetings but keeps them archived on their website for later viewing.
Another thing that ANC3F does well: prepares residents for not only the agenda of what will be discussed at the meeting, but the DOCUMENTS! I know, crazy, right? Who is better prepared to ask questions: the person who has seen the [fill in the blank: drawings, letter, resolution, etc] in advance of the meeting where it will be discussed or the person who shows and has to learn all of the content at the meeting? Put your hand down, that was rhetorical. It makes more sense to provide our elected officials feedback BEFORE they take a vote.
To its credit, ANC3C has made strides to catch up to the 21st century. They recently scanned much of their paper archives into searchable PDF documents. And after the fact, resolutions, letters and (eventually) meeting minutes of the commission are published on the website. So are (sometimes) audio recordings. Missing are:
- Posting subject matter materials online in advance of meetings including archtectural drawings, development plans, other submissions by parties with business before the commission, and proposed resolutions from the commissioners.
- Any documentation involving the content or discussion of the committee meetings, including minutes. These are public meetings and as any resident who has gone before the committees with home renovation plans knows, substantive issues get raised and drawings get revised with no public record at all.
Lastly, we need a better framework for delivering public comment. The CP List is awesome, but it is has grown too big to be a neighborhood soapbox. Today we had someone from Bethesda asking questions. Great to expand the group recommending a roofer, but not great for discussing issues facing Cleveland Park. Some areas of CP have started their own lists, including my section of Macomb St. This is an are that does not necessarily need an ANC solution, but we do need a forum to ask and comment on issues facing us.
Last year I started a Facebook page called, “CP in the City” where I try an post information about what is happening on the civic front in Cleveland Park, and share issues that may have some relevance to where we live. For example, today I posted the DDOT CP Streetscape and Drainage presentation boards. I invite you to “like” the page.
Transparency, information sharing, visibility, connected-ness – these are all things that are not to be paid lip service, but are critical to make sure we let everyone in our neighborhood participate in the civic process. We shouldn’t need an election to make this a priority, but if elected, this will be a core part of my reform agenda for ANC3C.