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Public is heard at public meetings

By Staff | Feb 16, 2015

I attended the Wells City Council meeting last week, and I?listened objectively and without judgement (I?promise – that’s what I?do) to some discussion about alleyways and shrubs.
Many residents attended the meeting last Monday night to address the City Council about the ordinance which involves setbacks for fences and other landscaping items.
Some portions of the discussion actually became pretty heated.
Now, I don’t live in Wells, so I?am not affected in the least by this ordinance update, so that is not really the point I’m trying to make here.
However, I couldn’t help but think about how cool it was to see this type of discussion taking place between public officials and some of the residents of Wells.
I?don’t necessarily mean the parts of the discussion that got heated or where fingers were being pointed at others.
The blame game usually is not a very good way to handle a situation – especially as adults.
But, I?thought it was great to see that members of the public had attended the City Council meeting at the end of last year with their concerns about the new changes to the ordinance.
The council heard the residents’ concerns, physically went out and looked at some of the lots the new ordinance would affect and decided to revisit the ordinance.
So, at their most recent meeting, the City Council voted to move the setback for fences back to where it had been before it was updated at the end of last year.
And, new Wells City Council member Whitney Warmka said it best at the end of the public hearing.
“I?want to thank you for coming up and expressing your concerns – that does take a lot of courage and not everyone has the courage to do that.”
It’s true, it can be scary to stand up in front of a group of people and express your opinion or concern on a matter. Especially when a decision had already been made and it seemed the case was over and done.
I have no right to preach when it comes to this because I am terrified to speak in front of more than three people at a time.
But, the point is that this is how it should be. Speak up and have your point of view heard.
To revisit some advice I?received as a child from my parents, ‘you might as well give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen – they say no?’
And, that’s exactly right, even when it comes to attending a public meeting to express your concerns. You might get shot down, but then again, you might make a difference.
Although, the example I’m referring to is about the distance from an alleyway to which you can build a fence or plant a shrub.
But, it does affect some people – many of the issues addressed by our city councils do.
I cover Wells City Council, Winnebago City Council and a handful of other board and council meetings, and most of them schedule a time at the beginning of their meetings specifically for public comment.
Most of the time, the council will open the meeting for public comment only to find no one from the public is even at the meeting.
But, that’s why they put that portion of the meeting on the agenda each month – just in case there is one.
If you have a concern or question about a topic in your city, that’s why the City Council is there. Don’t be afraid to speak up!