My comments from Monday night are posted on the campaign website, www.kendramyerscox.com. I'm including a version of them here as well. These comments are a reflection of where I'm coming from, where I stand, and what you can expect from me when I am your representative on City Council. Please share them as you wish, and please "like" me on Facebook -- comments are welcome!
Thank you again for your support.
Kendra Myers Cox
Candidate, Roswell City Council
To the folks on the inside, the process may have begun with adoption of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, or the hiring of the consultant firm, or the formation of the UDC Committee in June of 2012. There have been work sessions, hearings, and other open-to-the-public meetings; however, the public really only came into the UDC picture in August of this year through a series of meetings held at different locations around Roswell.
These meetings were open and held in a public setting, but they were not “community meetings” in the true sense of the term. They were informational meetings, and the public’s involvement in them was highly controlled and restricted, as there were no opportunities for general questions or discussion. There is a huge difference between just holding a meeting that is open to the public, and engaging in real outreach and welcoming open discussion and dialogue.
We are told that the public’s input is encouraged throughout this process -- but input on what? Changes are coming to the UDC fast. I’m not sure anyone – not staff, not council, and certainly not the average resident or business owner – can keep up. If you tell us to provide input but then can brush our comments and concerns aside by telling us over and over that it’s a draft, it’s a work-in-progress, then our input has no meaning. At what point do we get to see a document that we can actually evaluate? It’s hard to hit a moving target.
Here’s the rest of the path for the UDC:
A new draft document came online on Friday 9/27, and then there was an all-day Council work session on Saturday 9/28, at which we can assume more changes were made. Today is 9/30. There’s a Council work session on 10/14. Then the Planning Commission meets the next day to provide final recommendations – on what? The document that was just worked over the previous day?
The Council is slated to accept a draft of the UDC on 10/28, and there is a first reading of the ordinance and map on 11/13. Then a second reading of the map and ordinance and adoption of the UDC on 12/9.
It’s not clear when changes are being made, and how. The UDC is supposed to be a road map for Roswell’s future – how can we possibly create a strong, inclusive, and lasting document in this piecemeal fashion? It was implied on Monday night that if the document isn’t ready, then the vote to adopt it will be pushed back – but it wasn’t clear what being “ready” means, or how far it will be pushed back, or what steps will be taken to ensure that it is ready.
I have a suggestion. I’m not just here to complain. The process should slow. Down. I suggest a “notice and comment” period, similar to the approach the federal government utilizes in their rulemaking and regulation-writing process. Say what you will about the feds – we’re in a shutdown, they do tend toward the dysfunctional – but this engagement model is something that they do right. The process is fair and clear. Here’s how it works:
Generate a draft and freeze it for no fewer than 60 days for public comment. Ninety days would be better. No changes during that time. Actively gather public input on it. Hold workshops with different stakeholder groups – the Roswell Business Alliance, HOAs, neighborhoods, churches, nonprofit organizations, professional and civic groups. Take public comment online, via telephone and postal mail, and at real community meetings. After the public comment period on the draft closes, collect and organize the responses and publish them as a public document. Over a period of no fewer than 30 days, use the comments to adjust and update the draft, specifically addressing the substantive concerns that have emerged. Hold work sessions with council, the UDC Committee, staff, and boards and commissions. Invite the public to those sessions, working and networking through the people who offered comments during the open period. Then generate a final draft for approval. With this process, we have clear objectives, deadlines, and deliverables. We can be confident that the product that passes is one that represents our best interests – not the interests of a select few – to the best of our ability.
We are on a very fast track to December 9th. It is unwise and irresponsible to adopt the UDC when there hasn’t been a full and thorough vetting of a final version. It shouldn’t be passed if it’s still being tweaked up to the nth hour. When its contents are ever-changing. When we don’t understand its ramifications and implications for our infrastructure and character. When the design standards aren’t available and won’t be until the spring – after the document is scheduled to be approved. This whole debacle reminds me of the Affordable Care Act, which had to be passed so we could find out what’s in it.
We must change our approach to ensure that the UDC serves the best interests and the long-term health of Roswell, especially our residents and small businesses. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Kendra Myers Cox
Candidate, Roswell City Council