07/16/05 — Neighborhood meetings will be productive

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Neighborhood meetings will be productive

Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman is planning a series of meetings in neighborhoods around the city this fall.

Some of the sessions would be in the streets which would be blocked off for the events. Churches and other buildings might be used for others.

Attending would be the city manager, the mayor, some City Council members and representatives of various departments.

It is an excellent idea.

It is reminiscent of those held many years ago when neighborhood watch meetings were held throughout the city and, subsequently, in many rural settings.

Initial meetings will be held in low-income areas of the city, according to Huffman’s plan. That, too, is a fine idea.

Many people would not feel comfortable speaking in the formal setting of a City Council meeting or before a crowd in a big auditorium or courtroom. But in the course of a relaxed, come-as-you-are gathering in their own neighborhood, these same people would be more inclined to speak one-on-one with a council member or the mayor or chief of police.

That kind of relaxed atmosphere could be important. Perhaps it could be assured by beginning each session with a period of elbow-rubbing and hand-shaking and soft-drink sipping and music before “calling the meeting to order.”

The neighborhood watch sessions of years ago were social occasions that brought folks living in the same blocks together, actually giving them an opportunity to make friends with people they knew only in passing. Many brought folding chairs. No one was hesitant about raising questions or offering suggestions.

The city manager is to be congratulated for his plan.

And City Council probably will find citizens in most of their communities will welcome the program. But a word of caution. If the meetings run true to experiences of the neighborhood watch sessions, the turnouts will vary. And some of the neighborhoods needing them most oftentimes had the smallest participation.

That will offer an early challenge as the city plans the meetings.

Published in Editorials on July 16, 2005 11:04 PM