There has been a trend that has developed over recent years in communities all across America. Residents of towns and cities observe what their local government is doing and then voice their opinion publicly. Though it is not always the case, often the comments are negative. It’s not a bad thing for people to have opinions or to voice them; the only problem is that they’re picking the wrong public arena: the internet.
With everyone up in arms about the new roundabout at Dean Avenue and Lucy Webb Road, the difference between having an opinion about something and acting on it correctly has hardly ever been clearer. A public hearing that is set to be held by the city of Raymore on October 14 concerning the budget for the new fiscal year will hopefully bring out the best in the community by sparking citizen involvement with City decisions.
A quick glance at some of the past posts on the Facebook “Rants and Raves” pages for the area show just how disconnected most residents (at least in Raymore) currently are with the local government body. The pages serve as a great tool for local business and their patrons, but it does not serve as a real platform for communicating with government.
There have been several “rants,” hundreds of comments, and who-knows-how-many side discussions about how terrible the infamous roundabout will be for the City. The angered keep on ranting, completely bewildered that their City Council could make such decisions (perhaps without asking them first).
The truth is that there is actually a method that has been set up by the City of Raymore so that citizens can speak directly to the mayor, councilmembers, and city staff. Every second and fourth Monday when the City Council meets at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall, they save time at the end for public comments. At this time anyone and everyone who lives in Raymore can come to the microphone and share five minutes’ worth of their concerns for the City.
Beyond that, any Raymore resident can get his or her name on the agenda beforehand and make a special appearance at the beginning of the meeting. If a citizen of the City calls the city clerk before 3:00 p.m. on the Friday before a meeting, that person can request to be on the agenda.
Perhaps part of the reason that Raymore citizens aren’t directly engaging with City leaders is because most of them have never been to a Council meeting. The Journal took a poll on its website a few weeks ago and received responses from several Raymore residents. Though their answers were anonymous, it is sure that the mayor, some city councilmembers, and lay people all contributed.
The poll revealed that over 80% of those surveyed have never spoken at a Council meeting but 53% said that they feel like their opinion matters in Raymore. So if over half of the general public feels like their opinion matters in Raymore, then why has less than one-fifth ever verbalized that opinion to the City leaders?
Correspondingly, over half of those surveyed knew the names of only two or less of the eight City Councilmembers.
“Perhaps the problem is that residents don’t know what is going on in the City and that is why they aren’t involved,” you may suggest. As it turns out, 67% of those surveyed said they know about developments in Raymore “mostly before” or “sometimes before” they are voted on.
It is quite possible that there are concerned citizens who speak to the Councilmembers who represent their wards personally rather than speaking to the entire Council. This is definitely a viable option and a great idea to get to know the person who represents one’s specific area. However, it is not the only method of involvement, especially when it comes to participation on major issues.
For instance, the aforementioned roundabout issue has sparked all kinds of discussion online and elsewhere, but very few actually spoke at the City Council meetings when the matter was being publicly considered and voted on. In fact, at the meeting in which the Mayor’s vote broke the Council’s tie about proceeding with construction of the roundabout, only one resident spoke out. He urged the Council to slow down with their decision-making to weigh all of the options.
The reaction on Facebook and in real-life “chat rooms” would tell a different story, though, as many people who live in Raymore would suggest that the Council breezed right through process without giving anyone a chance to convince them otherwise. That is simply not true.
Still, 68% of those surveyed said they believe that Raymore does a good job representing its residents and 77% describe Raymore’s future as either “good” or “very bright.”
The upcoming public hearing concerning the City’s budget for the next fiscal year should matter to everyone who lives in Raymore and cares about its future. Studying beforehand, coming to speak, or even just observing how the process works would be a great way to participate in this event that informs residents how their tax dollars are being spent in their community.
Raymore is growing rapidly and has to make quality decisions going forward. Thankfully, the City wants to hear from its people. For more information about the public hearing, visit either raymore.com or theraymorejournal.com.