Debbi Lester: Let's come together as a big neighborhood

What I have enjoyed most about campaigning is meeting you. Our discussions are often lively. And listening to your perspectives, ideas and expectations is both educational and inspiring.

I’ve come to learn that you are the experts of your neighborhood. You naturally have the street smarts about the place you call home. You know where a bike lane, pathway or crosswalk is needed. You realize that a bus shelter at the end of your street in the rainy days of winter would be appreciated by both commuters and school children alike.

You saw last winter whether your neighborhood was prepared or not for the severe storms. You understand that the kind gesture of a bench along a walkway provides a place of rest for your senior neighbors out on a stroll. You see how a neighborhood pea-patch would be beneficial and would grow more than just vegetables. It would grow friendships, too.

It is from these door-to-door conversations, community events and neighborhood gatherings – such as the Nicholson Drive summer picnic, the Eagledale campaign party, the Moji Lane potluck and the Chamber of Commerce After Hours – that a concept of creating community/council gatherings began to take form.

Coming together to share both food and food for thought is so enjoyable. The atmosphere is neighborly and celebratory. The ideas, questions and conversations flow easily among us. At these gatherings we are equals. We are neighbors.

Now that we have changed our form of government let us change how we do the work of the city.

In this modern age of twitter, text messaging, email and podcasts, these are all tools that could and do facilitate communication. I hear from you the need to improve our city Web site so that you can access city documents, streamline the permitting process, schedule with city staff and find video and audio recordings of meetings you may have missed. All these avenues of technology should be tapped.

What cannot be replaced by technology is the best form of communication – face to face, neighbor to neighbor. My husband and I laugh that news still often spreads faster on this Island by word of mouth than by technology. So many times we have run into people at the Farmers’ Market, the grocery store or the post office and they say, “I just emailed you.” And there we were in person talking sooner than the email was read.

Coming together with neighbors in a relaxed setting – a town hall gathering, a ward meeting or simply a neighborhood potluck – gives us a chance to discuss the vision for our city and neighborhoods, get updates on the City Hall topics, and talk about upcoming projects in our community. At these gatherings we could decide the few and important things we wish to accomplish and how we are going to get things done.

Recently, 60 percent of the island came together to organize their neighborhoods and create disaster preparedness plans. Let us build upon this work. Let us plan to meet again, first to finish, update and/or create our neighborhood disaster preparedness plan, and also to make sure that the 40 percent gets together. What better time than now to come together as we are heading into another winter season? Let us gather, get to know our one another, become informed, prepare, and decide how we will work together.

This concept is intentionally not a fully fleshed out format because your input as well as the council’s is needed. So what do you think? Is there something here that you could work with and is this of interest?

Actually, one neighborhood, Island Homestead Apartments, is ready to meet. In doorbelling there, I heard about how hard the last winter storm was on that community. There are many seniors and some residents with special needs. The neighbors there are scheduling a potluck to make plans for how to respond to another challenging winter. They are inviting members from the city, the fire department, and the American Legion to help make a plan, decide on building captains, create phone trees and set up a central meeting area to provide warmth, supplies and information.

So, when would you and your neighbors like to get together?

Give me a call, email or just bump into me downtown and let us set a date.

I will bring the pie.

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