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Thursday, June 8, 2017

SLI Transparency Not Only Dissemination of Information
But also Thorough Resident Input

We are indeed fortunate that each monthly meeting has "Visitor Concerns" built right into the agenda. We are also fortunate that our Institute officers have regularly been available to us throughout the community--appointments have, to date, not been required, so we do have input if we initiate it. This works well as it relates to issues that begin with the resident(s).

On the other hand, there are issues that come up that are brought up by other circumstances such as when the new gas lines were proposed to be replaced by RG&E last Spring or the paving of roads that occur each year. Historically, the one issue that used to come as a surprise to residents was that of the manipulation of roads--selling them off, dead-ending them and rerouting them. These decisions have long lasting results that continue to affect residents right up through today. Thank God, this can no longer be done legally.

One of the things that our municipal cousins have that are not in our bylaws is that of the public hearing. The advantages found in the public hearing include (1) issues about which residents are not aware, get contacted, usually by mail, giving them a summary of the issue and a date and time when it will be aired or flushed out among the residents; (2) it does not use up valuable time in regular Board meetings that already have full agendas; (3) qualified professionals can be brought in to supplement the information necessary for making good judgment; and (4) a better educated and better prepared residency can have a greater confidence that the Board has thoroughly heard from those who ultimately must live with the decisions.

An excellent example of where this would be helpful is with the current issue of the Ames Avenue project. We have just relearned some lessons and while they are still fresh in our minds, we should consider a bylaw about residential hearings. In relation to the Ames Avenue residents, we learned: 

(1) the grapevine failed to inform the residents that a street conversion was being considered; (2) the readership of the News Blog at best covers about one-quarter of the residents; (3) while a proposed paper edition of the News Blog may increase readership up to one-half of the residents, it is not the total solution; (4) while first class letters could possibly up the readership to three-quarters of the residence, it also falls short.

We have a significant number of residents who are determined to stay separate from other members of their community and the events and opportunities that the community provides. It has been said that they are here simply because they could afford the cottage so they bought it and moved in, without regard to any information or even "requirements imposed" on them for being a part of this rather unique community. 

We are told it started as far back as the late 1890s through about 1908 which was during "the Cleveland Depression" when the Assembly was nearly lost to foreclosures. After John Stoody saved the Assembly with his own money, there were many properties ready to be resold and were--to strangers unacquainted with the uniqueness's of--at that time--a religious community based on Methodist Episcopal principles.

Now that we know what doesn't work, what is it that will work?  A plan that would divide streets into "neighborhoods" which would have volunteer representatives who would be known as such and would do door-to-door notice of any "major" upcoming issue. Neighborhood "Reps" would contact residents at their residences. 

A hypothetical statement could be made such as: "Good Afternoon, I'm Joe, your Neighborhood Rep and I have information about a proposal to close Ames Avenue to all vehicular traffic and creating a garden walkway. Would you like to hear about this, or would you prefer that I just leave this letter of project explanation with you which also tells you about a public hearing on the subject? ..."

What if they don't even open their door for you?  Simply rubber band the info letter to the doorknob and be on your way. Could this level of personal interest in residents' well being be a new beginning for the Institute? Go ahead . . . please find fault and raise questions about this. It's either a golden egg or pie in the sky!

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