I have read a ton of blogs since attending the Womens March. In a number of “how to make a difference” articles, they note that you should learn more about your local government. How it works, what is involved, go to a meeting, etc. Tonight, I attended my first New Haven Town Council meeting. It started at 6:00, I arrived at 6:03 (along with the police).
A little insight into my town:
- The median age in the town was 42.4 years
- According to the US Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.30 square miles, of which, 1.10 square miles is land and 0.20 square miles is water
- Population in 2014: 1,536 (97% urban, 3% rural). Population change since 2000: -1.5%
- Fairly even split female:male ratio
- Estimated median household income in 2015: $36,986
Mean prices in 2015: All housing units: $92,990; Detached houses: $94,385; Mobile homes: $19,283; Median gross rent in 2015: $560
- 97.7% caucasian
Mar. 2016 cost of living index in New Haven: 81.4 (low, U.S. average is 100)
So, I arrived at the door of the Town Hall, it seemed dark so I sat outside for about five minutes or so, not knowing quite where to go. I saw the city police officer I know crossing the street and thought I could follow him as he seemed to know where he was going (thankfully, he did). The meeting was already in session as we quietly made our way into the room. I sat next to the reporter from the local newspaper (very nice lady and I am mad I did not catch her name). In front of me was Scott Brewer, a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 13 and his wife. On the other side of them was Harry, the wonderful and amazingly funny man who bricked my home. Next to him was a town worker who is nice and polite (and of whom I never learned his name). Six of us in the audience, city police to the side, four councilmen, one mayor and one recorder. I knew pretty much everyone in attendance, they all have known my husband (a local) for most of their lives.
Minutes were being read as I entered, next was financials and then Mayor Jerry looked at me and said, “Michelle do you need to talk about anything? You came in late and did not sign in.” The recorder, Roberta said: “I wrote you down, it’s ok.” Life in a small town is pleasant (in a good way). I mumbled “No, I just want to learn about my local government” and they moved on to vote to take a matter into closed chambers regarding personnel. While they were out of the room, I took the time to talk to Scott Brewer. I voted for him this election and I wanted to know a little more about him. Of course, one of the first questions I asked was what was his stance on Betsy DeVos and he noted he was firmly against her appointment. We discussed how, if confirmed, she would affect our area. I understand a little better about how a “go where you want to” system would work in our state. In my head, I could not understand how a charter system would work. After our discussion (which at this point included all audience members) – I now know that for states like West Virginia, there could be a wooing of top athletic students to larger schools. So, I am a little more infuriated than before about DeVos and how she will undermine the education of the “regular” population of our state who struggle as it is to receive a quality education in a safe environment. We talked about Trump, our state politicians, what kinds of committees he would be serving on, etc. I am glad that I was attended the meeting if for nothing else but to speak with a person I voted for regarding how he would be working for our state. I wished him luck, as he starts in a few days.
Then the council returned and we learned that their discussion had to do with an indefinite suspension of someone on the town payroll. We will learn details at the next meeting in two weeks. Jerry then opened discussions to the floor. Mr Brewer said that he was attending the various meetings in his district so he could meet people and asked what he could do for New Haven. His wife reinforced how accessible he was, if he was needed to not hesitate to call him.
Then the meeting was adjourned. And my first New Haven Town Council experience came to an end. It lasted one hour total. I learned something about the person I voted for to represent District 13, I laughed at Harry, I felt included. Overall a nice experience. I will probably attend the meeting in two weeks. Erin might be here. That could be fun. We could make it a Gilmore Girls experience and take snacks.
I did say out loud “What does it take to make this a sanctuary city.” I was met with chuckles. However, I did not come with an A game agenda. Maybe next time.
Do you attend your Town Council Meetings? How do you pitch in locally? Let me know in the comments below!