As we continue to experiment with a new site, set it up, take care of business, you will notice activity on both this site and the former Que Fregados website. With that said…. on to a post. We’ll be practice posting for the next few weeks as we make changes.
Neighborhood empowerment has always been of interest. Having been part of the first neighborhood association, not to be confused with a Home Owner Association, in Laredo in many years (if ever there existed one before), I was disheartened by the approach and attitude city government continues to hold over groups united for a common voice.
On Thursday, July 30th, a movie night was held at St. Peter’s Plaza. It was sponsored by the city’s Parks & Leisure along with Councilman Balli, with an opportunity to meet city department staff and talk to your representative. All around a great program except… why was it not planned along side those that have organized the area and regularly go door-to-door? The only consistent Neighborhood Association in all of Laredo that is run by the neighbors for the neighbors and it was not taken into account. The Rio Grande International Study Center was given a space to distribute shopping bags and talk about their program but the St. Peter’s Historic Neighborhood Association was not. To make the evening worse for having representation and a fair opportunity for those interested in city developments, the final Charrette for the Border to Boulevard project was held around the same time. The timing was simply awkward.
It could have been an oversight, miscommunication, or simply bad planning – that is not the issue. It is a pattern that is consistently seen when planning for the city of Laredo. An ideal community will take input from residents to then formulate goals and plans and ordinances for the better of the municipality. Unfortunately, what Laredo consistently sees is those in city leadership positions make decisions and expecting the masses to conform – punto. One excellent example of how resident participation was garnered was in the aforementioned Charrettes that allowed for the general public to attend sessions and give ideas and a glimpse into what is important to them. Whether the idea of these sessions came from previous pressure to make planning more transparent or whether it is because it was not the city coordinating these sessions but the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in cooperation with the city leaders, either way, the public was part of the process and various architects were involved with coming up with ideas for what to do with the strip of land at the beginning of IH35. For all we know, the architects did what they pleased but there is no escaping the fact that the public that is not connected with the decision-making, bore witness. This one brief moment of attempts at civic engagement was refreshing but the question remains… when will we see a more inclusive effort to involve the general public? When will groups that have formed to represent specific part of Laredo be considered partners rather than afterthoughts? When will we see the transparent government where bottom-up solutions are looked to for some of our city’s top-down problems?
We’ll be listening in on the next city council meeting – ready to hear about issues that truly concern residents and how they are dealt; decisions that range from water treatment plant plans to municipal management districts to other items where varying opinions have been raised by pockets. I’d show you the agenda items but they are currently unavailable but you can still try for yourself to view both the agenda and supplemental agenda for Monday, August 3, 2015.