How to keep the Community engaged?
By Pete Kelly
The Charlotte Mayor and City Council created a series of Community Recovery Task Force teams to discuss and recommend recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This new approach created joint community & council member committees to research and then recommend changes for key challenge areas impacting the Charlotte Community. The key areas were Small Business, Airport and Housing. These new Task Force committees are now concluding.
·The Task Force Meeting structure included a combination of community experts on the Task Force teams and opening the meetings to detail presentations from various community advocates to provide critical detail knowledge on the challenging topics. These Task Force groups met weekly to gather information and generate recommendations.
As noted by Councilwomen Johnson in the Housing Task Force group, this new meeting structure has provided more community engagement in the process than is allowed by the ongoing Council Committees structure.
We would like to highlight some of the positive outcomes beyond their respective short-term recommendations.
Both the City Council and the Community were able to better understand the complexities of the various topics before considering recommended changes.
The meetings also resulted in creative and innovative ideas being generated that extend beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The process created opportunities for ideas by community experts that go beyond the knowledge of City staff to be considered.
The Mayor and City Council have determined that the work is now ready to be passed back to the pre-existing Council Committees to continue forward. (For example: The Housing Task Force ideas will now be sent to the Great Neighborhoods Council Committee).
Returning to the standing committees will result in Monthly One Hour meetings that do not provide opportunities for Community input on the topics being discussed. The Community experts and advocates are limited to one on one meetings with Council Members and/or discussions with City staff.
We strongly believe that the benefits of increased community engagement to the City decision making processes should not be lost by returning to the pre-existing committee structure. We recommend:
Increase the duration of the Council Focus Area Committees to a minimum of 2-hours monthly. The topics being discussed are too complex and important to limit the meetings to 1 hour.
In addition, add a new 2-hour ongoing monthly Committee Meeting to enable Community Involvement in both educational information and recommendations.
For example: Creating an additional monthly 2-hour meeting for each Focus Area Committee that includes information presented from practicing professionals and advocates.
There has been much public dialogue on the need for substantive ongoing changes to the community to improve Racial, Income and Wealth disparities. We believe these ongoing changes to the Council’s community engagement process would be a great step forward in accelerating ongoing improvements.
Please consider emailing or calling your City Council member and at Large City Council member to make the recommended changes.