How to organize public opinion

How to organize, debate, consider, community ideas for greater support in the community and ultimately with council and town staff.
       
User avatar
Scott L
Posts: 433
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:48 am

How to organize public opinion

Postby Scott L » Wed May 20, 2015 5:25 pm

Dear Mt. Holly HOA:

I am writing to you because I see our town is on the brink of transformation. I see disagreement between what our town is becoming and what our citizens want our town to be. I believe if left unspoken and unaddressed, the pressure for “change” will be something that is handed down to us residents rather than lifted up by us residents. I have noticed that our city council is allowing and even embracing changes to occur to our town that we taxpayers do not want. That being said, we citizens are guilty of not coordinating our collective voices to be heard. This is why I write to you today.

Notice that South Main Street is now being turned into a real highway with the widening project that has long been in the works and likely caused properties along S. Main not to be improved over the years as this project hung over our heads. Most of the town doesn’t know that there was a proposal in front of council in May for more Heavy Industrial zoning to be made near Freightliner and National Gypsum. And almost nobody knows there is an expansion of North Main Street slated for 2030-2040 that could widen that road to 4 lanes making that road a real highway as well – right through 2 miles of our northern neighborhoods with all the industrialism that highways have.

Well, many of Dutchman Ridge's HOA members showed up at the May council meeting to have their voices heard! They did not want more Heavy Industrial growth in and around their homes. Many more people also showed up to tell council that North Main Street is already in horrible condition because of the heavy trucks that travel it and they certainly want no more of it. We now have on-the-record and undeniable evidence that our town residents do not want Mount Holly to grow in some ways – and some want to keep it small with no growth at all!

It was unfortunate that some business bought residential land near 273 and asked the town to re-zone it Heavy Industrial and was denied. That could be a waste of someone’s money and is a symptom of a town leadership problem. And it’s unfortunate that our town came close to a decision that citizens find objectionable if they had not noticed and taken action in the eleventh hour as council was to make the final decision to allow more heavy industrialism and more trucks to travel through our neighborhoods.

What our town is missing is constructive dialog among citizens that can engage and inform on matters that shape our town. We have councilpersons that don’t seem to understand the will of the people and have no good way to collect that needed input from those that elect them. Another problem is that all of our councilpersons are at-large – meaning they all serve all people of the town at the same time. If you want to tell “your councilperson” something, you have to tell that to six of them separately. Having little constructive dialog with councilpersons causes them to make statements and taking actions (for example) to “increase the tax base” which most of Mt. Holly citizens likely don’t want. When an informal Facebook poll was made asking if people thought Mt. Holly should grow or stay small, 93% of respondents said to stay small - that's opposite of "growing the tax base". How is it that councilpersons don’t know that and therefore provide direction for our town to “grow the tax base” by planning and supporting more and bigger roads and future property annexations?

I have a solution to propose to you as an HOA -- since you have a group of members that likely have in common what they want their neighborhood to be and how best the town can support them. I have created a website called MyMtHolly.COM where I have a place for your HOA and members to deliberate town topics that matters to you. It’s nothing fancy – but it’s easy to do and therefore costs nothing. If you think having a common place to discuss town business is important, I ask that you communicate in your monthly/quarterly/annual communication to your members a reference to the MyMtHolly.COM website to let them know there is a semi-structured forum by HOA and by subject matter that could be valuable for coordinating public opinions for councilpersons to consider when providing town staff directions and strategies they expect them to follow. It could also be useful for you as an HOA to keep a pulse on discussion topics from your members in your dedicated HOA section that an HOA might want to address formally.

If we can’t find a way to provide collective citizen input up to council and through to town staff, then what naturally happens is that councilpersons gravitate to town staff (who ARE engaged in community matters) to seek input about what staff thinks the town should be. Though most (if not all) of town staff are well-intended and smart people, they can't help but to be motivated by their professional desires, pie-in-the-sky public works, and bigger/better town things. It would be difficult for a government employee to go to work every day and want to keep the town from getting bigger. Therefore those councilpersons being provided advice by town staff provide us citizens directions and strategies as perhaps something none of us want – like a 4-lane road full of more trucks running through town tearing up roads because someone thinks it’s a good idea to “grow the tax base” without considering what that does to a decidedly small town.

I thank you for your consideration of this request. Election season is upon us and you’ll find a section at MyMtHolly.COM dedicated to the council positions that are up for election this November, who is a candidate, and what their views and positions might be. This is a good time to improve our town’s engagement and participation in shaping our town’s future.

Sincerely,
Scott Lilly
Mt. Holly, NC
  

MtHollyMom
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:54 pm

Re: How to organize public opinion

Postby MtHollyMom » Wed May 20, 2015 8:19 pm

Awesome letter! More citizens need to be involved! Why do we just sit by & let these things happen? Citizens wake up!
  

MtHollyMom
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:54 pm

Re: How to organize public opinion

Postby MtHollyMom » Wed May 20, 2015 8:22 pm

Oh yeah, just got a free MyMtHolly.com t-shirt myself. Good fit. Good job! And, great place for citizens to get busy! :)
  

User avatar
Scott L
Posts: 433
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:48 am

Re: How to organize public opinion

Postby Scott L » Wed May 20, 2015 8:37 pm

Like! Maybe we need to start a photo section to show photos of people wearing mymtholly.com shirts in their daily lives.
  

JohnDunn
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 1:52 am

Re: How to organize public opinion

Postby JohnDunn » Fri Jul 24, 2015 2:55 am

Great article. Just now seeing this article that I received via email. A few points. The city manager sends out a brief newsletter each month with our utility bill. If citizens need to be more informed as to what city council and other boards are doing, then I suggest that the city manager appoint various members of the city council or other board membersto be responsible for giving us updated information as to ongoing city council activities and decisions made on the most important matters "of the day". It might be helpful also to print council meeting dates open to our citizens and list subject matter to be discussed.

Someone mentioned that our city leaders serve as "at large" members and that one has to speak to each one individually if one needs to address a concern. There are open sessions at the council meetings wherein citizens can address all of the council including the mayor on any concerns they might have. So......attend as many council meetings as you can. Your voice can be heard there.

Finally, I want to speak about the growth of Mt. Holly. Mt. Holly is in a rather unique position. Our community and surrounding area is growing as a residential community and incurring more expense for providing the services necessary for it's citizens. The problem: where is Mt. Holly to get the tax money needed to provide more services? One of our problems is that we do not have the land base to expand our city, in other words, we are "land locked". We can't expand into Mecklenburg or Lincoln counties nor can we expand into Belmont or into Gastonia or Stanley. We are a small town "putting on too much weight" and like me my bones and muscles start to hurt, and so does the infrastructure of our town. Some seem to think that the answer to stretching the tax base is to industrialize. I happen to believe that it is not the answer. What are you going to do to your town by putting industry right next to your nice residential communities. I believe that you will destroy it. There may be other answers and examples to follow.

I know that it may be anathema to some to even think of following Belmont's lead in doing anything, but let's face it, they are doing a pretty good job of expanding their business base and moving away from the idea of industrialization. They have been successful in selling their town as a rather eclectic adventure and "the place to be". Mt. Holly might consider ideas along this line. Some years ago there was a plan presented to the city of MT. Holly to build a mixed use community off Sandy Ford/Stanley-Lucia Roads that would also incorporate an 18 hole golf course, shopping area, restaurants, condos, etc. sort of like Birkdale. Perhaps we need to rethinks ideas like this. Another consideration might be to merge with some surrounding towns. In a sense, we all have the same problem---an explosion of population but a dire need to expand our towns incomes to support needed services. Incorporating more land in this manner would expand our land base and incorporate more resources to expand the tax base so that with good planning we can keep or industrial base and their physical locations out of our residential neighborhoods. To me it is essential to keep our residential zones quite separate form our industrial zones. Yet we must decide, are we to be a residential community or an industrial one? Industry will eventually kill us. Sharp marketing and attraction of service businesses will allow us to survive as the community we all want to be---a place to call HOME.
  

User avatar
Scott L
Posts: 433
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:48 am

Re: How to organize public opinion

Postby Scott L » Fri Jul 24, 2015 8:38 am

"So......attend as many council meetings as you can. Your voice can be heard there." -- When you do that, you have a spotlight on you, your comments are recorded in public record, and the council has a policy not to respond to your comments at the meeting. In other words, that's a platform to make a statement -- not have a dialog. And for the record, I wrote to all councilpersons and the Mayor. Only the Mayor acknowledged my letter. That is disgraceful public service from our council.

"Growing" Mt. Holly maybe ought not to be intentional. The beauty of Mt. Holly is that we're NOT commercial and crowded. Though the natural progression is that we will be more commercial and crowded. Our Strategic Vision Plan suggests we should plan and manage growth -- which is different than causing and creating growth. More growth makes us less small-town. It will take effort and a deliberate strategy to keep our small-town character. Not having effort and strategy will allow for external pressures of industrialism and the NCDOT to do things to our town that we might not want.

I agree with you that we have a sharp marketing. Mt. Holly is a "great place to play" indeed. That is our marketed message. We need the effort and strategy to embrace that marketed message. Putting the Strategic Vision Plan out there to "sell" our town's "unique small-town character" is smart. But could be considered "deceptive" (bait and switch) if there is no intention, effort, or plan to implement that Strategic Vision Plan!
  


Social Media

       

Return to “Grass Roots”