Neighborhood revitalization, public safety, and new revenue sources to be discussed at special city council meeting
The Decatur City Council will be meeting at the Decatur Club to discuss the priority goals of the city council including neighborhood improvements and new sources of revenue such as a cannabis dispensary to offset rising expenses. The meeting will take place on Friday, October 8 at 8:00 AM at the Decatur Club.
Established in 2019, the council goals are: Neighborhood revitalization; Grow, enhance and better prepare the local workforce; Take downtown Decatur to the next level; Implement selected new technologies that will improve municipal service delivery; Implement new revenue initiatives and cost reduction measures; Collaborate with other stakeholders to create a coordinated plan for Lake Decatur management; and Create a bold and aspirational vision for the future of Decatur. The session on Friday will allow the city council to review progress on current goals and possibly revise or establish new goals. Below are some of my views in advance of the meeting.
Neighborhood revitalization – While we have made progress on many of the strategies associated with neighborhood revitalization, the city is not keeping pace with the rate of blight making success of this strategy less obvious. The lack of a comprehensive neighborhood plan developed by community members is a substantial barrier to the success of this goal, and one strategy that should be implemented soon is the creation of such a plan. Furthermore, the significant increase in gun violence experienced in 2020 and 2021 necessitates more focus on making our neighborhoods safer. Finally, there is an opportunity for the city to become a greener city and in the process improve health outcomes.
Grow, enhance and better prepare the local workforce – The reduction in the city’s labor force is even greater than the city’s population decline. As more people first decide where to live and then find a place to work, neighborhood revitalization and public safety take on even greater urgency as a means of both enhancing quality of life and reversing population decline. Two additional strategies that can enhance our local workforce are expanded youth employment programs and reentry programs for those that have been formerly incarcerated.
Implement new revenue initiatives and cost reduction measures – With the city’s population declining and expenses increasing, the city must find additional sources of revenue in lieu of raising taxes. A cannabis dispensary and other cannabis-related business will increase revenue and jobs in the city. The city also has an opportunity to move toward energy independence. We can reduce our carbon footprint by establishing solar power generation at the Oakley Sediment Basin. Finally, as climate change continues, the city has an opportunity to secure additional and exclusive water sources that may attract new industries seeking water security.
Create a bold and aspirational vision for the future of Decatur – The priority goals should help drive a bold and aspirational vision. Even if all the strategies for each priority goal are achieved, it is still unclear what impact they will have without a vision. Developing a bold, aspirational vision that focuses on enhancing quality of life of the people who live here should be developed by early 2022 using a collaborative, public, citizen-driven process.
FOSTERING EQUITABLE RELATIONSHIPS SHOULD BE A NEW PRIORITY GOAL OF THE CITY COUNCIL
The city of Decatur is considered to have some of the largest racial disparities in the country with significant differences in median income, educational attainment, unemployment, and home ownership. There are also long-standing and shorter-term health disparities including differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates among races in our city. Of significant concern, much of the gun violence in Decatur is being committed by younger black males.
Strategies for fostering equitable relationships could include joining the Decatur Public School board in declaring racism a public health crisis; ensuring city council policy and city codes are not reinforcing racial disparities (i.e., failure to enforce requirements for face coverings during the pandemic may disproportionately impact races with different vaccination rates); acknowledging and addressing any racial disparities in policing; and providing a safe neighborhood for all citizens of Decatur (i.e., community policing initiatives, more neighborhood cameras, and mental health crisis counselors and social workers to assist families in non-criminal matters).
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss the city’s strategic priorities or other city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.