Speak up or forever hold your piece of mind...

Published on Thu, Jul 5, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Speak up or forever hold your piece of mind...

By Meg Olson

Rather than gather together members of city government and leaders of local organizations to give the city its annual check-up, city manager Gary Tomsic opted to take the pulse of the community. “Often our priorities don’t line up with the citizens priorities,” Tomsic said. “We can become isolated. It’s good to personally reach out and see what’s on the mind of citizens – what do they think we should be doing.”

City council gave Tomsic the go-ahead in May and the meetings are scheduled for the next two weeks. City council members, members of city commissions and staff members will be at one or all of three scheduled meetings to listen. “The purpose of a neighborhood meeting is not for us to pontificate, but to listen,” said mayor Dieter Schugt. “We need input from the people,” council member John Liebert agreed.

While he was city manager in Wenatchee, Tomsic said neighborhood meetings were an eye opener. “After the first one, city council members were telling me they didn’t get to talk about the issues they wanted to. If the things the citizens want to talk about aren’t what we want to talk about, we have a ‘disconnect’.”

Tomsic said the audience would develop the agenda for each meeting. “We’ll list things they want to discuss, then go back and talk about each one of them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a few things, sometimes it’s twenty.”

The first meeting, at the Semiahmoo fire station July 10, will focus on west Blaine goals and issues. Meetings on July 17 and 19 at Blaine senior cene will turn to south Blaine and north/east Blaine issues. Tomsic said information gathered at the meetings would form the foundation for a new set of goals and priorities to guide the city. “Are there issues that we consistently hear about? If there are, that’s what we need to be working on,” he said.

Terry Galvin, Blaine’s community development director, said the neighborhood meetings would help build the foundation for a revised city comprehensive plan. The existing comprehensive plan was drafted in 1995 and, by state law, will need to be revised by 2002.

“One of the things missing in the comprehensive plan is a core vision of who we were, who we are and what we want to become.” Galvin said. “Now we have very generic goals.” Galvin said city staff would put together input from upcoming neighborhood meetings with results of city-commissioned studies and previous public meetings to find common threads and extract a community blueprint.

“If we have a consolidated vision we’re all on the same step,” he said.

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