Think of it as an expo, but instead of tables with information, although tables could be there, too, representatives from different community services would talk about what they see happening in Ward 3.
Camille Vella-Wilkinson is calling the April 18 meeting at 6 p.m. at the Pilgrim Senior Center the “state of Ward 3 address.” The councilwoman has put a spin on practices that have been used at the local, state and federal level. As her selection of “state and address” imply, the event will offer the opportunity for constituents to get the most current information about issues affecting them. Vella-Wilkinson has invited representatives and department directors from the airport, police, schools, public works and sewers to address the gathering. Mayor Scott Avedisian will bring the city greeting. The difference, rather than presenting an overview, as mayors, governors and presidents have done in “state” addresses, Vella-Wilkinson has asked for those in the know to give ward updates. There will be multiple presenters, which is a step up from the ward meetings council members have held for years.
Vella-Wilkinson’s meeting is akin to the “gripe sessions” former Mayor Joe Walsh used when he took office 37 years ago. It was a period of change, when many people felt cut off from government. They couldn’t get answers and they were angry. Walsh faced the crowd with a lineup of department directors and opened the meeting to questions. If directors didn’t have answers on the spot, names were taken down and follow-up calls or visits were made. The sessions started off hot and heavy but quickly became obsolete. People had their answers.
Vella-Wilkinson’s lineup will provide answers but also give a bigger picture of how things are progressing. This should be especially informative to residents affected by the runway extension and the relocation of the Winslow Park playing fields and realignment of Main Avenue.
But this isn’t only about the airport. Residents will also get to hear police talk about what they are seeing in terms of criminal activity and measures to take to address safety concerns. Representatives from other departments will give brief presentations on activities affecting the ward.
While Vella-Wilkinson isn’t closing the doors to those living outside the ward, she intends to keep the focus on Ward 3. It should be an informative session that not only provides answers to Ward 3 residents and businesses, but also gives those in government and the airport an understanding of local concerns.
Who’s to say? Vella-Wilkinson may have come up with a prototype for other wards, if not a citywide, meeting. We congratulate her effort to make government more accessible.