Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Letter to Norristown's Council Members

Dear Council,

Welcome to the start of a new year.

When I began writing this Diary last summer, my thought was to post an article maybe 2 or 3 times a week, as I got time. I learned quickly that Norristown is not a cause you adopt on a part-time basis. It's more of a lifestyle, a vocation. The truth is, there's so much going on in this town, some of it scary, but most of it wonderful and positive, that frequently I've found I can't always keep up.

As a councilperson, you COULD simply show up twice a month for meetings, with an occasional extra closed-door session, plus a handful of town-wide events where you stand behind the council president and look dutiful. You could do all that and consider your job done.

I invite you to do more. There's something going on nearly every week in this town, especially in the warmer months. If an event in town, no matter how small, is open to the public, please show up and support the group hosting it. Yes, I know there's a rule against all councilpersons being in one place at the same time unless it's an official meeting. Well, this might sound like a foreign concept for some of you, but you COULD coordinate your attendance and come at half-hour intervals. Often weekend events overlap--so 2 or 3 members of council could go to each.

Norristown volunteers love it when a councilperson takes interest and comes to an event. And they notice who doesn't. For a lot of them, the most they'll need from you is encouragement, but that's a precious commodity in this borough. Much of what's wrong with this town boils down to attitude. Volunteers can get frustrated and discouraged if they feel they're alone and if everyone else is saying "It can't be done." We need council reps to be cheerleaders for these group efforts.

Besides supporting our organizations, getting out to events will give you a chance to get to know your constituents. To this end, I also invite you to regularly patronize Norristown's businesses, and to take walks around our neighborhoods. Talk to people. Get familiar with the problem areas, and with those parts of town that we ought to be boasting about. Especially make an effort to get out of your comfort zone and meet residents outside your usual circles.

The residents and business people in Norristown are ready for good things to happen this year. We want to be partners with Council in making those things happen, instead of feeling that you're fighting us all the way, or not keeping us informed, or not taking our side.

So, you can get bogged down in your resolutions and disbursements and motions, and spend your time in back-room deals with outside developers and corporations that don't have Norristown's best interests at heart. Or you can look at the bigger picture, join our vision for the borough, and become a part of, or even lead, this community's renaissance.

Best of luck.

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