Tonawanda News

April 24, 2014

WALLACE: Be part of the solution

By Amy Wallace
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I recently attended the Town of Tonawanda’s Comprehensive Plan update meeting on Tuesday at the Brounshidle VFW Post in Kenmore. I went as a newspaper reporter but also as a resident of the Village of Kenmore and Town of Tonawanda. 

The meeting was the second public information session for residents to get information about the town’s update of its Comprehensive Plan which was last updated in 2005.  

Members of the Comprehensive Plan steering committee presented findings from the previous meeting in November and data analysis while also seeking additional resident input on what needs to be improved in the town and village.

This whole idea sounds great, right? A municipality looking to residents to tell them how to improve upon the community they live in. This type of planning process is not new and communities all over the country follow this process.

What is sad is that out of a town with a population of 58,144, fewer than 20 people showed up to attend this meeting — and two of those were newspaper reporters. 

I commend the hard work of the planners and steering committee members who poured their time into this. I also commend the residents who did bother to show up and have their voices heard. 

What I don’t understand is why more people did not attend the meeting. After all, it is a chance for them to air their grievances and voice their concerns about the town and village. 

The planners seemed genuinely eager to get input from the residents on how to proceed. They wanted to give residents a hand in shaping the future of the town.

I’ve seen this time and time again. Residents are given an opportunity, either through meetings or public hearings, to voice their opinions on a subject. Hardly anyone shows up to these meetings, which are well publicized. Then when changes are made, people come out of the woodwork to complain they never had a chance to be heard on the subject. 

It happened just recently with the Ken-Ton School District’s consolidation project. That process went on for nearly two years with meeting after meeting to gather resident input. 

Based on these meetings, several different consolidation scenarios were presented to the public. After even more meetings with the public, those scenarios were whittled down to four options.

The district gathered the public’s input on the four proposals before finally voting on the consolidation plan that was ultimately chosen.

Even after all of that, people still complained about the process and that their voices were not heard. 

The district may not have chosen the proposal that pleased everyone but people had every opportunity to make their voices heard. 

It’s just like with voting. During an election season, people gripe and complain about certain candidates and issues. But when it comes time to vote, polls show low voter turnout rates.

How can you effect change if you don’t participate in the process? If you want your voice heard, you have to show up to make sure it’s heard.

Believe me, I know how hectic people’s schedules are these days. And getting to every meeting is obviously not possible. But if you don’t attend meetings just because you can’t be bothered then you don’t have a right to complain after the fact. 

If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com.

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com.