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Cincy Council Asks City Manager For New Community Engagement Policy — Again

Cincinnati Council public comment instructions
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
A sign with instructions on how to give public comment in Council Chambers at Cincinnati City Hall.

The Cincinnati city manager will develop a new citizen engagement policy, prompted by an ordinance passed unanimously by council Wednesday.

Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney introduced the measure. She says it's based on a motion passed six years ago that was never implemented.

"The point was to have a policy of engagement for the community with every department and with our commissions and boards," Lemon Kearney said. "And that's really important, I'm sure, to all of us. We all want community engagement and so we just want a policy for that."

Former council member Kevin Flynn headed the effort to pass the community engagement motion in 2015. He says Lemon Kearney's ordinance is a positive step, but he wishes it had stronger accountability for making it happen.

Sue Wilke helped lead the community effort to make citizen communication a mandatory part of local government.

"The city needs to change its culture around engagement, plain and simple," Wilke said. "The fact that over 132 voices in 40 neighborhoods signed a petition in a matter of days in support of this ordinance suggests that the community is tired of not being engaged."

Community activist Robbe Bluestein was among several others speaking in favor of the ordinance.

"Too often, by the time we in the neighborhood community councils find out, we have just hours to make a decision," Bluestein said. "Way too often decisions are made without the two-way communication, which is needed to create a positive outcome for everyone in the city."

The ordinance says those affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the problem-solving and decision-making process.

A public meeting to be scheduled within 60 days will kick off the process of developing the policy. The ordinance requires the city manager to provide regular progress updates on the development and implementation of the plan, including an annual report.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.