The District 1 Community Council Board met in a community meeting on Monday, June 26. The meeting consisted of a forum with Representative Sheldon Johnson and Senator Foung Hawj. Each of the officials presented a summary of their impressions of the 2017 session, and of the uncertainty that still hangs over the outcome of the session. The Senator talked about the money that he was able to bring to the East Side and to the various communities that make up our area. The Representative gave a run-down of the various pieces of legislature more generally. We want to heartily thank both officials for their willingness to engage in this discussion.
The discussion with residents focused primarily on the sense that our part of the East Side is not receiving the attention of elected officials that it deserves. Although money is allocated for East Side endeavors, the benefits of that funding does not reach all corners of the East Side. In particular, economic development dollars are not used to encourage training and development of residents in District 1, or to encourage the creation of new, family- and locally-owned businesses in our area. Sun Ray shopping center was cited as a prime example of a business opportunities that are consistently overlooked. Although vacancies are abundant, and some small, "minority"-owned businesses are present at Sun Ray, attendees of the meeting felt that more could be done to support those businesses and encourage new ones to form.
Representative Johnson and Senator Hawj encouraged residents to contact their legislators and other elected officials, but pointed out that the East Side has extremely low rates of voter turnout and politicians pay attention to those who vote. Although this does not explain why other parts of the East Side - which have even lower rates of voter turnout than District 1 - receive funding, the point remains that raising our voices and stating our needs is important - having ideas of what we want to see happen is vital.
There was additional discussion about how funding tends to go to entities that have received money before - although it was also pointed out that results derived from the funding is not readily examined prior to reallocating funds. There was a hearty discussion of the merits of top-down vs ground-up allocation of funds to truly have an impact on people's lives.
Following this discussion, the board completed committee assignments for new members, listened to updates from our standing committees, and examined monthly financial reports.
Next month's agenda (July) involves an Open House to hear about the Rail Yard capacity study and other transit projects.