LETTER TO THE EDITOR | More suggestions for community council

Last month I wrote a letter to the editor in the Madison Park Times entitled “Communications, accountability in Madison Park.” This was an attempt to start a discussion about the Madison Park Community Council (MPCC) so that we, the community it professes to represent, can be involved in improving its communications and accountability to the residents of Madison Park, Washington Park and Denny-Blaine.

We need MPCC to succeed, but for this to happen, there needs to be change.… 

In the past, MPCC has done great things for our community: the Bank of America (BOA) Triangle Park, the Safe Sidewalks project and the Snow Brigade. I suggest that the BOA park concept, with its stone benches, also be done at the Madison Street end. Hopefully, the Safe Sidewalks will be continued and that the Snow Brigade is connected to Nextdoor, where we have text alerts.

We have a lot of new residents in our area, and I believe that most have no idea what MPCC is or does for the community. I suggest that MPCC write an article for the Madison Park Times introducing itself and detailing what it does for our community.

The monthly council meeting notice flyers…are posted in the park business area and on Nextdoor, but [the] wording gives the reader no idea what is going on or why they should attend. We need to see an agenda for meetings, and then we need to see a timely posting of the minutes on Nextdoor.

Most council meetings only attract five to 10 people, unless there is a hot topic like crime in the Park. There are 18 officers and board members today — why is the attendance so low? To attract more people, maybe it’s time to look at some practices from other councils, such as quarterly meetings on Saturday, starting meetings at different times and/or holding meetings during the day.

Currently, MPCC communications are done on a website that is out-of-date, a monthly article in the Madison Park Times’ Community Corner [section] and/or a quarterly mailing that asks for funds.

The council website needs a major overhaul, and it needs to be updated regularly. It shouldn’t take months to get the current officers and board listed. Here, again, the council should be looking at other council websites for ideas. 

I would like to suggest that each council member have his own email address and that each officer and board member’s picture be posted on the website. The people on the council should be recognized for their efforts, and they should be recognizable in the community so that we can improve communications.

We need timelier and more responsive communications. The best way today is Nextdoor. It reaches almost 1,900 people in the area covered by MPCC, and this would allow the council to post items for further input from the community, such as upcoming decisions on the Madison Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Nextdoor also has a polling tool that would allow MPCC to gauge the consensus of the community outside of meetings.

The quarterly mailing is costly and could easily be done electronically on Nextdoor. This would save money, and this kind of distribution could be distributed as needed, not just quarterly.

I fully recognize that not everyone has access to a computer today, but hard copies could be made available at the Red Apple, [Madison Park] Hardware store or in the lobby of the buildings where [community members] reside. This is 2015, and most of us now have a powerful computer in our pocket called a cell phone!

Every May, there are nominations and elections for the next board. The board then elects the officers. This process needs to see the light of day by having the current officers and board members listed, whether it is on the website, Nextdoor or in the Madison Park Times. The proposed board then should be introduced to the neighborhood before the general meeting that approves them. 

Being on the board should be considered more than a resume builder, and board members should participate, or MPCC fails. Yes, it’s time-consuming being part of a volunteer organization, and I experienced that myself. Individuals should want to serve the community, and that is an honorable thing to do.…

If MPCC can’t communicate or be accountable, then we should use remedies in the bylaws to force changes. The bylaws allow for another slate of board members to be proposed in May, and there are attendance requirements for Board members. For those interested in the bylaws, the URL is www.madisonparkCouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/2014bylaws.pdf.

These are just suggestions, and I’m sure that this community has other ideas on how to improve the council’s communications and accountability. MPCC represents us when dealing with the city/county, and they need input from more than those attending the monthly meeting. 

The status quo is a club, not a council. We deserve a council that communicates with us and is accountable to us!

Reg Newbeck

Madison Park