Community outreach and input when it comes to government priorities is nothing new. Some state and county legislators constantly have community events to gauge constituent interest. Among a few are “Java with Jerry” events for state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and “Donuts with Don” events for San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley. The events give constituents a chance to weigh in on certain issues and share ideas.
Two San Mateo councilmen are taking their queue from such events and have organized informal “meet-and-greets” to get new ideas and gauge the temperature of residents. Councilman David Lim recently held a “San Mateo City Council: Unplugged” event to get a better sense of what issues matter to average residents and Mayor Robert Ross had a coffee event with Interim City Manager Larry Patterson with the same goal. Ross, as mayor, sees having such events quarterly but is still working out the details.
Both Lim’s and Ross’ events were at a good time, however, as the City Council is about to have its annual goal-setting session Feb. 10. Those sessions typically give the council and staff a chance to see what they accomplished, and what is left on their plate in the new year. It also affords an opportunity for members of the council to see if there is initial support for their pet projects and to identify and prioritize the community’s wants and needs.
For Lim, he heard much discussion about water conservation, overall sustainability, the ongoing issue with oversize vehicles on streets and the overall state of the city’s streets. He also said he was surprised about the level of support for some sort of bond measure that would specifically go toward street repairs. That may be eased by a push by some in the state Legislature for a lowering of the threshold for such measures from two-thirds to 55 percent. But that is by no means a done deal. It is, after all, being discussed in Sacramento.
As far as water conservation, Lim said there could be a number of ways the city can help whether it be using recycled water for landscaping or rewarding home owners for low usage. Lim said he looks forward to bringing the residents’ ideas to the goal-setting session and seeing how the city’s staff and council can address it.
Ross reports a level of concern about density near transportation with the amount of housing the city is encouraging and the traffic that comes with it. Finding ways to keep downtown clean are also a top concern, he reports. Someone said the downtown is a large kitchen and, with that, comes some grease. Ross said some ideas are to partner more with the Downtown San Mateo Association and possibly encourage more cleanup days with assistance from local youth. There were a lot of ideas about beautifying downtown, including signs for historic buildings, consistent planters and maybe working on a specific plan for North B Street, Ross said.
There was also some discussion of the city’s formation of a sustainability committee and updating the city’s municipal codes, Ross reports.
All members of the City Council spend significant time with constituents through their regular activities and at council meetings. And some of the best ideas come from citizens who call or email. However, having informal meetings in which people can share ideas, brainstorm and get information about city business is a good way to make new connections. You may even see some ideas come to fruition or find new ways to channel energy.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.