September 8, 2017
Re: May 16, 2017 Letter
Dear Saint Paul City Council Members:
St. Paul STRONG (SPS) is a nonpartisan, community-led organization dedicated to improving open and representative government in Saint Paul by encouraging and supporting open and transparent public processes in local government, engaging and empowering resident participation, and building a stronger, more inclusive Saint Paul. This past May, SPS sent the City Council a letter regarding a fair amount of concern we have heard (and continue hearing) from residents who feel disenfranchised based on recent City activities. The concerns have been described as follows:
City staff who…
1. Neglect to provide all pertinent and accurate information related to a specific issue that affects organizations charged with decision making on projects that impact neighborhoods. (i.e. Planning Commission, District Councils, City Council, etc.).
2. Provide insufficient reports to the Saint Paul City Council on issues that impact citizens and neighborhoods.
3. Document public comments inaccurately by neglecting to use clear, concise, and consistent criteria to measure support or opposition to a given project.
As stated in our previous letter to the City Council, these gaps in data flow result in fractured public processes that inhibit meaningful discussions and informed, responsible decision-making. Given these observations and concerns about input and transparency, Saint Paul STRONG made the following recommendations to the City Council for consideration:
City staff reports should include all pertinent and accurate information related to an issue/project. i
Staff should establish clear, concise, and consistent criteria for categorizing public comments so that citizens understand how comments are weighted to indicate support or opposition. Then, planning commissioners, BZA members, & City Council members will get a fair representation of the neighbors' support, concerns, etc. ii
In order to inform planning commissioners, Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), and City Council members on neighborhood issues, District Councils should be encouraged to report committee and board votes and an overview of various positions, in their minutes and reports to city staff.iii