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OP-ED: A government of the people
May 17, 2014, 05:00 AM By Charlie Bronitsky

Charlie Bronitsky

On Nov. 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave what is one of the most famous speeches in American history, the Gettysburg Address. It is remarkable not only for its brevity, but for the profound statements about war, freedom and government that it makes in such few words. Among the words I find to be relevant today and to our lives in Foster City are about what makes American government unique, it being a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Many people today feel detached from their government. Regardless of how they feel about things, partisan politics and political ambition control and things move forward in the face of logic dictating otherwise. Even on the local level, the process is such that people begin to feel that they have no say in what happens, that things are already decided, and therefore they stop participating in the process. We see less of that here in Foster City than many other places, but those feelings seem to be on the increase and participation on the decrease.

As your council, we seek input and feedback from our residents and business and it frustrates us when participation in key decisions involves only a minute portion of the population we serve. As a result, we look for ways to increase public participation however we can. Thus, just a few months back we quietly passed a new ordinance that now brings major development projects to the City Council for an advisory hearing, with public comment, before anything else occurs. We passed this law believing that it was a way to solicit public comment on growth in our city before any particular project was steamrolling through the process and heading toward the inevitable with little public feedback. I can say today, that our decision was correct and the process works.

On Monday, April 28, we held the first of these meetings to discuss Charter Square and a proposal for housing and a marina on the Bayfront. To say that the public got involved would be an understatement. The council chambers was packed, people were sitting on the floor and the entire foyer was full. No one on the council could remember ever seeing that many people coming to participate. In addition, we received many emails and petitions and other forms of communication from the public. All in all, the new process proved to be a resounding success. The public got a chance to speak when it mattered and they were heard. I could not be more satisfied with the process.

We, however, are not stopping there. We are, for example, also doing a more personal level of outreach. In the coming weeks, I will be inviting our largest businesses and employers to meet with me to talk about how Foster City can improve its relationship with its businesses and provide better services to them and their employees. Various members of the council have already met several times with homeowners groups to speak with them about programs and projects that would benefit their members. As a result of that, this year we will start a process of modernizing our municipal code to streamline various processes and reduce the burden and cost on our residents.

We are doing outreach to those who live in apartments through the California Apartment Association. We solicited their input on the upcoming new smoking ordinances and we have been working with them to begin to develop programs by the landlords to eliminate smoking altogether, on a voluntary basis, for the health of our children and other residents.

We will ultimately be bringing this outreach program to neighborhoods and shopping centers, attempting to reach as many of you as we can. Our goal is to grow Foster City in a way that serves the needs of our changing population, without changing the great feeling we all have as we live, work and play here. To do that, we need better public outreach so that we can better understand your needs.

Public outreach can be difficult but we are working on making it better. If you have ideas, feel free to share them with us. We want your input and we want your participation. We want to live up to the credo restated so eloquently more than 150 years ago and ensure that Foster City offers a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Charlie Bronitsky is the mayor of Foster City. You can contact him at cbronitsky@fostercity.org or 286-3504.

 

 

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