Your City, Your Ideas meeting successful; now for a plan
BY Alisha Morrissey - THE TELEGRAM
Residents of St. Johns had a chance to have their say Saturday and they took it.
Sitting in a large circle at city hall, people of all ages and from all over the city listened intently to the plan for the morning as moderator Bui Petersen walked around the centre, encouraging each of the 60 or so participants to come forward with a topic or issue they'd like to talk about.
Jessica, the first resident to walk to the middle of the circle, reached down to take a sheet of paper and marker before quietly declaring she would like to talk about transportation inside St. Johns and into the city from other areas.
Jessica was followed by Lori and then Joshua, who each wanted to discuss local currency and then energy independence.
Soon there were several topics, ranging from tourism and heritage preservation to the need for a municipal plan, posted as the day's agenda. And as more people filtered into the Foran Room for the morning-long session, it was obvious these people wanted to stop complaining about problems in solutions for them.
Happycity.ca organizer Dave Lane was pleased with the turnout and the topics at the morning event called Your City, Your Ideas, which encouraged residents to give their best ideas for running St. John's better.
Lane admitted he was flitting from group to group, throughout the day and wasn’t too engrossed in any one topic, but thought everyone seemed to leave in a good mood.
“People felt they were given the opportunity to speak their minds and throw a few ideas off of one another,” he said several hours after the meeting had ended and he was able to compile some notes from the groups.
“The topics were very interesting. Obviously, the one that was close to my heart was increasing public involvement and there was a chat about the benefits of having an outside group having this kind of event."
He said there were topics he'd expected, like transportation and development. But he also heard others like water security and access to farmland, that weren't.
The most popular group – the one with the most peop1sitting in n the discussion – was about city planning and development.
"Basically, there’s a need for a plan,” Lane said, adding the members said the current plan was too easily changed and should be updated.
If we’re going to achieve a common vision for the city and make good decisions we’ve got to have some sort of framework we all agree upon so that we don’t have to invent it every time we want to get something new
The community also seemed to want to move ahead with a new municipal, plan something some members of council have resisted.
A group about making the city about the cycle friendly also tied in how Memorial University could play a part – perhaps through its bikeshare program – and a chat about tourism raised the point that what's good for the tourist is good for the townie.
Some early favourite ideas were quickly posted tom the Happy City Facebook page and throughout the day organizers tweeted the process and photos from the conference.
The group’s online presence also extends to its own website where anyone who lives in the city can go online and vote for the ideas they think are best, give feedback in the form of comments, or post their own ideas.
Lane says the loose format of the meeting led to some really specific ideas and now the group will have to use the information to make a plan.
“We’ve made a commitment to continue this process... ways we can actually act upon the ideas," he said.
Out of the 60 or so participants, many had specific areas of expertise, be it business ,or city cycling, it is hoped they will be recruited by the happycity.ca group to take up certain causes and act, as spokespeople when issues come up at city hall.