Good Evening, Hugh Stearns, 316 Suffolk in the Oakwood neighborhood. I am with the College Station Association of Neighborhoods, also known as CSAN. You can see more about what we do at neighborhoodintegrity.org.
Time and time again neighborhoods have filled this chamber to plead their case, often the case that has been laid out in the neighborhood plans, only to go home deject and defeated. As CSAN has worked to engage community leaders the most frequent response we hear is “good for you; I wish you well, but I’ve tried and you can’t get anywhere. Council represents developers not the people.” We know that it does not have to be this way.
I am here today to ask you to begin the process to enact two very simple changes that will help better engage our citizens.
The first change has to do with time at this podium. Developers promoting zoning changes that impact our neighborhoods are given unlimited time. No green, yellow and red light to pump anxiety into a harried plea. In most cases these lobbyists do not live in College Station, much less in the neighborhoods being impacted, yet they are not lectured about consideration for long nights or reminded not to repeat what has already been said before they are turned loose on the racetrack of being heard before the College Station City Council. It makes no sense that those representing a single business interest be given languid, unobstructed time to plead their case while the neighborhoods most impacted are forced to string together three minute pieces of anxiety laden appeal. This is one of the reasons that CSAN is finding citizens too burned out to work to better their community.
We can fix this. I know that you must be thinking ‘God, no, not longer Council meetings.” No, in fact, I think that the fix would reduce the length of Council meetings. All you need to do is cap the amount of time given to the developer making the case for change and give an equal amount of time to the recognized neighborhood organization most directly impacted by the change. Everyone else, for and against, must step up to the three-minute race track. It is our neighborhoods that are impacted by these zoning changes, it is only right that we be given an equal quality of time
I’m asking that tonight you direct staff look into this and that the issue be put on a not too distant future council agenda with time for community discussion.
I would like to give you that second idea to deal with citizen fatigue but I’m afraid that there is not time. I’ll have to come back another time to do that. Thank You