There are times when you wonder who it is that you can petition to add an hour or two to the day. Between work, and homelife, it seems like there's never enough time to do everything that you want to do. I've been meaning to go to a city council board meeting for a long time, but never attended one. Between all the other things that conspire to fill the day, adding "watchdog of the government" to the list seemed to finish last to things like doing laundry, or reading a novel, or working late.
On Monday, Delaware Law Office received an email telling us about a meeting that the Newark City Council was going to have which would determine whether or not the Newark Conservation Advisory Commission would continue to exist. The email was from a university student (thank you Nikki!) who was forwarding a message from the chairman of the Advisory Commission, Steve Dentel. He was asking for a "strong showing of citizens in support of environmental priorities." His email also included a letter he had sent to the Wilmington News Journal that highlighted the need for citizens to take part in some of the many environmental issues that face Delaware. After reading the letter, I felt that the Advisory Commission was headed by someone who cared a great deal, and it would be a loss to the community to silence his voice in the City's decisions about the environment. I don't know much else about the advisory committee except for the fact that it has been around for a while (24 years) and is comprised mostly of people who are concerned about the community, and do try to spend some of their time trying to make things better for others.
I emailed a couple of friends to see if they would be interested in attending, and they got back to me with a positive response. We arrived at the meeting around seven. Newark City Council meetings are normally held at 7:30 pm on the second and fourth Monday of each month (except for this month, which will not have a second meeting). You can normally find the agenda for their meetings posted on their web site, and I give the City a lot of credit for trying to be responsive to the community online.
Delaware is a small state, and it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see at least one or two other familiar faces at the meeting. A friend, and his son's Boy Scout troop were also in attendence, learning about citizenship. In addition to the troop, there were a good number of people in attendance - probably more than the City Council is used to seeing in their meeting room.
I think that the head of the Commission was right. When it came time to have the City Council make a vote on the Ordinance to delete from the City of Newark Code the section on the Newark Conservation Advisory Commission, none of the council members backed the measure. There was to be a public meeting which would allow comments from the public. I think the amount of people in attendance spoke more eloquently to the desire of the community to keep the Commission around than any statements that could have been made. Sometimes just showing up, and being interested is enough.
The meeting lasted little more than half-an-hour. An hour a month to spend with others who care about their community seems like time that can be found.
- William Slawski