The discussion at town halls has been wide-ranging, so far. We’ve talked about greenery, historic preservation, sidewalks, block clubs and much more. Often, though, conversations about our city come back to inclusivity, one way or another.
In three town halls and on hundreds of front porches, I keep hearing a few things from all kinds of people:
- Lakewood takes pride in the idea of a community where diversity is welcome and celebrated.
- Our city can do better at living up to that idea, in practical policies.
- Including more people, voices and ideas will help solve the challenges facing Lakewood.
Our city faces serious challenges with population loss, and with related finance problems. To address both, we need to give more people reasons to call Lakewood home, and fewer reasons to look elsewhere.
Seniors are a great example. We hear a lot about the Millennials, but the elderly population is also a big part of Ohio’s future. A city full of multi-story walk-ups isn’t entirely welcoming for that population, and new development should do more to address this. Other amenities like transportation aren’t what they once were, according to town hall attendees, and remaining services aren’t communicated very widely.
People also have concerns with affordability, and jobs. They speak of rising rents, or of longtime neighbors who can’t afford the city they grew up in. Meanwhile the city has lost many good jobs, and even if people are reemployed elsewhere, that’s one less reason to remain. Lakewood should absolutely embrace pedestrians and cyclists, but one of the best ways to do this is keeping jobs within our walkable, bikeable community.
Above all, we simply need to include more of the community in real decision-making. For too many people, this hasn’t happened, and it’s a loss to all of us. Even with stretched resources we could organize improved senior services within our community, for example, but leadership has to support this.
Too often that’s no longer the case. Ordinary residents talk about being left in the dark. Committee and board members tell me that city hall focuses more on restricting their debates, rather than encouraging them.
This is a real waste. I’m running for city council at-large to change that, and I hope you’ll be part of that change. Our next town hall is Saturday, July 8 at Madison Park, following a free ice cream social at noon. Drop by!