I sure hope that all the people saying they want to run for office are paying attention because the regular council meetings are a graduate level class on what to expect and maybe what they hope to change as they run for that coveted seat. For work I watch these meetings from the planning commission to the city council meetings and even the special finance meetings that can lean towards the sleepy side. But all of them are very important for a city growing and evolving the way Westfield is.
My first observation last night is the super in depth IT investigation performed by a 3rd party to look into spying accusations by the administration to the clerk treasurers office. A million dollar lawsuit and I am sure 10’s of thousands of dollars in consultant money could have been resolved with a simple phone call. They literally based spying charges on an administrator logging into a computer as directed and treating it as if they were a secret operative for the Russians. Everyone involved in that looked silly and those running for office should take into account the liability and importance of not letting attorneys run the city as they have the last year. Just pick up the phone and solve it.
The second observation was again the comprehensive plan. “Dear future elected officials. Sitting on the sideline and acting as if the current or past comprehensive plan is enough to guide council and the apc is a joke. You need to guide the decision makers. It’s called leading” That comprehensive plan continues to be a roadblock for planning and leaves councilors boggled on how to decide if a plan is relevant or desired in an area. The next group should know that not only should they be enthusiastic on updating this plan but on day 1 they are already behind and there is an entire development community looking for answers. I would even be all for a 1 year stop to new projects so we can get our house in order.
ARPA funds came up and the YMCA led an emotional plea to use $5M of that to prop up what I see as a waining project. I am all for a YMCA if there is a need and desire for it but since they began rallying the cash to build it, they have yet to gain the momentum to get it done. One of my confusions is the pool the schools paid a bunch for that was supposed to spawn interest and be phase 1 of the great new facility but last night the talk was that without this money(that did not exist until it became a covid blessing) it may not move forward. To me it means there is not interest or the investment structure doesn’t work. It seems like our own little government bled Amtrak and I think we do enough subsidizing already. Maybe with all the undeveloped ground around the sacred Grand Park, the city just finance our own community center. If you are running for office this next election I think you will either be carrying this project or it may be a long gone dream.
As an elected official you will be more and more confronted with high density housing. We obviously have not given great guidance to the development community on what we intend for certain corridors but you will be making decisions on townhomes for the next many years. I think they are cool and if built nicely really create a neat place for people at all stages in life to enjoy. If you are running on the basis that you want to stop infill and high density because you want to preserve the small town charm, I suggest you come up with what that looks like because just saying we are growing too fast or “its not really what I envision there” is not a solution. It’s just a perpetuation of the same conversation.
Let’s be nice. Councilors and commissioners must remain professional and avoid outbursts, name calling and personal accusations. The world is watching and while I understand disagreements will and should occur, there is a better way than to air our grievance’s from the podium. I cringe as I have spent the last 14 years bragging about how great our city is and what a perfect place it is to move or grow it can be hard to respond to the onslaught of texts and emails during a meeting. Last night someone sent me a note after the meeting because they felt it was necessary to share. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons and daughters of God”. That could not have been more timely. While I want to be upset at how some have turned the meetings into a circus or surprised at the defensiveness, it was exactly what I needed to read. I strongly believe that everyone on those boards mean the best for their constituent’s, I think a little more peacemaking can go a long way.
Below is a link to the fireworks. Its super super long so bring extra popcorn.