When confronted with the lack of ward meetings, the most common response from our ward representatives and city government was the complaint that only 5-6 people ever showed up for the meetings and it wasn't worth it.
MHRRG countered their complaints with our assertion that residents in Maryland Heights did care and would show up if the meetings were regularly scheduled and properly advertised through a variety of communications to residents.
Thanks to continuous efforts by MHRRG members Robyn Merschen and Kim Cuddeback, Ward 1 held a long-delayed residents' meeting on June 8. In addition to the traditional neighborhood signs, MHRRG sent email to the hundreds of people on our mailing list.
The turnout was fantastic! Over 58 people joined Ward 1 City Council members Ken Gold and Don Hunt for a spirited dialog on community development and transportation activities in Maryland Heights as well as an introduction to the new police dog and his handler, Office John Wilson. Residents clearly voiced their preference for regular meetings, approximately every four months.
We'll refrain from saying, "I told you so," but the absence of regular ward meetings is a serious problem and hinders accountability and transparency in city government. The council members have a responsibility to be the "eyes and ears" of their wards. They represent everyone and it's hard to do that without regular ward meetings where they can learn from, and talk to, their constituents.
Ward meetings are one of the few city forums that aren’t restricted by meeting protocols and are truly open to a productive dialog with our elected representatives. While time is allotted at City Council meetings and Planning Commission meetings for public comments, they are time restricted (usually three minutes per speaker) and there is no opportunity to ask questions or have a discussion with the city representatives or other meeting members.
So what can you do?
Ward 1 – Your next meeting is coming up, please attend!
To their credit, Ken Gold and Don Hunt, have just scheduled their next Ward 1 meeting, fulfilling their promise to residents at the June 8th meeting.
Monday, September 14, at 7 p.m. at the Maryland Heights Community Centre on McKelvey Road.
Wards 2 and 4 – It's time to contact your City Council members and ask why they aren't holding regular ward meetings.
Each City Council member has a public phone number and a city email address. Please feel free to contact them.
Ed Dirck: 314-878-9001 firstname.lastname@example.org
Judy Barnett: 314-878-0056 email@example.com
Norm Rhea: 314-739-0096 firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Turner: 314-739-5086 email@example.com
Ward 3 – Keep up the good work and let us know when the next meeting is scheduled.
It should be noted that Ward 3 City Council members Mary Nichols and Don Johnson have had a long tradition of regularly scheduled ward meetings. We applaud their ongoing efforts to fully represent their residents!