Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Rebuild Springfield Advisory Committee: listening is not necessarily hearing
On behalf of Arise, :Liz and I went to the first Rebuild Springfield Advisory Committee meeting last night at Milton Bradley Elementary School. The listening sessions are designed for the four sections of the city hardest hit by the June 1 Tornado; this one was for residents and businesses in the South End.
Other than advisory committee members and public officials, only about 20 people attended-- not surprising given that the dates for the four meetings were announced on Friday, July 29 and last night's meeting was Tuesday, August 2. In addition, only 6 of the 15 advisory committee members actually attended the session (a tally kept by a man-- a renter-- in the back of the room). I will be curious to see if advisory board members make a better showing in the primarily homeowner neighborhoods .
Health and Human Services Director Helen Caulton-Harris, who I believe described herself as the liaison between the community and the advisory board, and Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management Director Patrick Sullivan, another liaison, talked about the length of the tornado and the damage done. They also talked about the development of a Master Plan. i admit my heart sunk a bit there, not that I hadn't heard that before. Whose Master Plan? How much will that plan really include the desires and needs of Springfield residents? And how can it include them if thery're not sufficiently invited?
Most South End residents talked about the need to have their housing rebuilt. One woman, from 15 Park St., said, "OK, you wanted us to live downtown, and we did. Now help us come back!" Rico Daniele of Mom and Rico's wanted to see the South End Community Center built deeper into the South End. Someone else spoke about the need for a market. (By the way, check out Mike Dobb's editorial in the Reminder about the same need in a different place-- should be online tomorrow.)
I'm going to try to keep an open mind about the whole process, although I know most decisions are made behind the curtain. Still, as the organizer's axoim goes, use what you've got to get what you need.
August 5th 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. JC Williams Comm. Cntr 116 Florence St.
August 11th 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Greenleaf Comm. Center 1188 ½ Parker St.
August 16th 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Holy Cross Church 221 Plumtree Rd.
Photo by Don Treeger, Republican staff photographer