It was nice to see a large crowd at the most recent City Council meeting. It means those residents are actively engaged in their local government, and attended the meeting to show support or opposition for a particular item.
Unfortunately, the level of productive participation in our municipal government process seems to be waning. Sure, there are occasions when City Council chambers are crowded, buy there seems to be fewer and fewer of those meetings in recent years.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable speaking publicly at a Council meeting. But there are other ways to let me or the other members of the Council know your feelings or opinions. We do receive phone calls, text messages, and emails from constituents about particular items, and we often meet concerned citizens in person to discuss issues. We appreciate the direct feedback, and I know I speak for everyone on the Council when I say we’d love to have even more interaction with members of the public.
Contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, for every member of the Council is available on the City of Minot website at www.minotnd.org. There’s also a public comment portal on the home page of the City website where you can send messages directly to members of the Council. We appreciate and value input from members of the community. It’s vital to how we perform the duties of our elected offices.
The City of Minot, with a host of other partners, recently conducted a study of the Broadway corridor. Part of that information-gathering process included virtual open houses and other opportunities for the public to comment on potential options for improvements along Broadway. Between two public input meetings, more than 2,200 unique participants offered opinions or comments, providing valuable feedback to the engineers and traffic engineers who will help design and implement improvements to the busiest stretch of road in our community. That’s the kind of public input we would love to have on every major project we undertake.
But too often, the level of public participation more closely resembles what we saw this year while we were crafting, tweaking, and approving the 2022 City of Minot budget. Over a number of months, City staff members and members of the Council created and approved a budget of approximately $175 million, including funding for the two largest infrastructure projects in Minot’s history. Unfortunately, there was little input from members of the public. Granted, the estimated property tax increase in the 2022 budget was barely noticeable, and that’s one part of the budget that often grabs everyone’s attention. But the budget is one of the most important things the Council and City employees do each year, and to have minimal interest from the public was disappointing.
City services impact the lives of everyone in our community in one way or another through police and fire protection, infrastructure like roads, water, and sewer, and services like trash removal, inspections, and community development. Not all the items included in the budget carry big price tags like flood control or the Northwest Area Water Supply project. Things like water or sewer rates impact the daily lives of community members, although their impact is much smaller. Yet they are important issues, and community feedback helps us determine the right choice to make.
As elected leaders, we bear the ultimate responsibility of making decisions that we believe are in the best interest of the entire community. Often, those decisions aren’t easy, and inevitably, not everyone will agree with the final outcomes. There isn’t always agreement among the seven Council members, either. That’s OK. There is always room for informed, civil debate and disagreement. In fact, productive discussion and disagreements must be part of the process if our local and state governments are going to continue to operate efficiently. Without proper public input, we’re making decisions based on what we think the community wants. It’s better for everyone if we can make decisions with as much input and information as possible, and we need public input and participation to make that happen.
There’s an upcoming opportunity to get involved with the state government. North Dakota legislators are expecting to hold a special session of the Legislature soon. Among the issues to be discussed is how to spend roughly $1 billion in federal funding North Dakota received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Surely, many state residents have opinions on how to best utilize those funds on infrastructure projects. Let your elected state legislators know your thoughts. You can find contact information for all state legislators at www.legis.nd.gov.
Sincerely, City Hall
You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.