I am writing this letter in response to the fact that at last night's meeting at Loyola sponsored by you and Alderman O'Connor, many people in the audience voiced concerns regarding lack of notification of the 4 meetings that were held to get community input on the proposed Sheridan/Devon TIF. Your response was that there was proper notification given, which didn't seem to satisfy those who had not been notified. Perhaps my experience yesterday might shed some light on the issue.
At 3 PM yesterday, I found out from a friend's e-mail, that a meeting at Loyola was taking place at 7PM. Since I had not been aware that such a meeting was planned, I thought it would be wise to check your website for official information. Your website contained no information regarding this important meeting, which was surprising, so I called your office. I was transferred to a woman who verified the meeting at 7PM, at 5400 North Kenmore, in room 142 of the Life Sciences Building. When asked the nature of the meeting, this woman told me it was a general discussion about TIFS and SSA's. When asked why no notice was posted on the 49th ward website, I was told that notification was given by flyer distribution. When asked why I had not seen any fliers, she responded nonchalantly that the bad weather over the weekend probably washed them away.
Assuming the information I was given by a staff member in your office was correct, I felt confident posting this "official" information on the blog so that other people who might be interested could attend. I found out by a commenter on the blog that the address was wrong. I found out when I finally got there, that the agenda for the meeting was entirely different than what I was told by your staff member. This was a specific meeting regarding the Devon/Sheridan TIF and not a general discussion about TIFS and SSA's. I realized then why I had not seen a flyer. I live NOH and this meeting was about a TIF in a different part of the 49th ward. So, consistent with your approach in the past, fliers were not posted in my part of town. I guess the logic assumes that what happens in another part of Rogers Park should not concern me simply because I don't live there.
If my experience is any indication, the people who complained last night about lack of proper notification were not exaggerating and in fact were right. The gap between your stated goal of "community notification" and the reality of how that "notification" is delivered to your constituency, leaves much to be desired. The importance of this issue should be reflected in your response and to this listener, your unapologetic, weary response was not indicative of your concern.
Reliable community notification is vital if we are to attend scheduled meetings and understand the issues that affect our neighborhoods. I do not think the current method of flyer distribution is the most efficient or most reliable method to achieve this goal. Inclement weather cannot be the deciding factor in whether someone receives an important notice or not. Relying on fliers in caldendar year 2006, is like sending out the town crier for a one time announcement. There are just too many variables involved with reliance only on flyer distribution and there are truly no assurances that all interested parties will actually be notified.
Allow me to make some constructive suggestions. Someone in your office had the wisdom to set up a website. I think the website should be the primary method of notification and the fliers as a supplementation to that effort. Almost all of us are online now and using the two methods would guarantee that most people would have a fair chance of being properly notified. There would also be an archived history of notices that could be used as verification of notice given. Fliers don't allow that needed verification.
Posting notices on the website would simultaneously discontinue the questionable practice of notice given only to "affected" neighborhoods. We are all affected by what happens in our ward no matter what particular street we live on. People should be given the option of attending meetings that are not specific to neighborhood. What would be the harm in allowing that?
Lastly, if your staff cannot be counted on to recite certain details properly, as happened yesterday, the website is always a perfect fallback option for callers to be referred to.
Thank you for the opportunity to make some suggestions and I hope you seriously consider their implementation. I am posting this letter because it is an important issue that affects us all. I would like a response that I can post, so that our community is reassured of your commitment to this important issue.