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Meetings to increase city-community engagement are a 'step in the right direction,' residents say

community engagement meeting
Becca Costello
Laura Castillo, right, speaks to City Planner Ashlee Dingler-Marshall at a public meeting in Westwood about community engagement.

About 25 Cincinnatians got a chance to tell city officials directly how they feel about citizen engagement. A public meeting in Westwood Wednesday night is part of an ongoing effort to create a new community engagement policy for all city departments.

Sue Wilke helped lead the community effort that started this process and attended the meeting. She says the city needs to be more proactive.

"It seems to me it's putting the burden on the citizens — who should be proactive anyway, because it really should be a two way street — to go to these different things, whether it's a survey or the website or whatever," Wilke says. "But I don't see the staff being held accountable for engaging with the residents."

City Council passed an ordinance in September asking the city manager to develop the new policy. It was based on a motion passed six years ago that was never implemented. The ordinance requires City Manager Paula Boggs-Muething to provide regular updates on the development and implementation of the plan, including an annual report.

Downtown resident Laura Castillo says the city needs to bring engagement directly to the people.

"Have those conversations where they matter and where the people that need to hear them are there," Castillo says. "Even if that means going door to door, even if that means going to the neighborhood councils. That is so, so, so important, to bring those people to the conversation and to the resources."

Castillo says city officials often don't hear from minority and low-income communities.

"I think that this is a step in the right direction," she says. "We're never going to be able to solve some of the biggest issues if we don't have people talking about what they're facing every day."

A final virtual public meeting is set for Monday, Nov. 2,2 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Registration is required for the virtual meeting.

An online survey will be available until Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m.

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.