Town Hall Forum Gives Residents/Stakeholders Opportunity to Provide Input

Council member MaryAnn MacGillivray chats with attendees

The General Plan Update Steering Committee (GPUSC) held its second Town Hall Forum today at the Fire Station.  There was a good turnout.  I’m guessing (yes, it’s a guess) upwards of 200 people.  Those who turned out had a great opportunity to share their thoughts on how they feel the City should progress over the next 15 – 20 years.

Posted on the wall were the following questions, which were approved by the nine members of the GPUSC:

  1. What one action could the City take that would encourage new business to open in Sierra Madre?
  2. What types of businesses do you want to see in Sierra Madre that are not already there?
  3. Is there sufficient parking in the downtown area?
  4. What do you like best about being located in Sierra Madre?
  5. What is the main thing the City could do to make the town more family friendly?
  6. What makes or would make Sierra Madre an ideal place to raise a family?
  7. What Sierra Madre events or services do you most value?  What is missing?

Participating visitors (not just residents, as business owners and those who participate in City activities were invited to attend as well) were asked to write the answers to the questions on large sheets of paper that were then posted on the wall near the questions, allowing people who were answering to consider answers that were written by others before they wrote in their own answers.

Full disclosure, I was wearing multiple hats at this event.  I am a resident.  I publish a Sierra Madre news website.  I am a member of the GPUSC communications volunteers.  I was stationed at the “business and institutions” table, probably appropriate since I am the executive director of the Chamber.  But because I was wearing multiple  hats, this article is limited.  I wore my press pass whenever I took pictures, and you will see that there is a photo gallery attached to this article.  As a resident, I wrote a couple answers on some of the answer sheets.  But because I didn’t want people to feel they should hold back on what they said when we spoke at the forum, I purposely didn’t wear my press pass, because I decided before the meeting that I didn’t feel it was appropriate to report what I discussed with people in this article.  I will provide their input to the Committee, but I will not publish it.

I did see some of the comments made on some of the sheets, which were posted on the wall.  I think that it is appropriate for me to discuss these public answers in these articles.  However, because I spent most of my time at the business and institutions table, I did not see all sheets for all questions, in fact, for some of the questions, I did not see any answers, though I know there was plenty of input.  I’m going off memory (plus photos), and am obviously not telling you every response.  More responses can be seen in some of the pictures I’ve posted.  I should have taken more pictures of the answer sheets. 

Multiple people responded to question #1 (Encouraging new business) that reducing fees and cutting red tape might help.  Another multiple suggestion was to provide wi-fi throughout the downtown area. Another suggestion was to encourage retail on the first floor, offices on the second floor.  At least two people suggested outdoor types of businesses (biking, hiking, etc.), though that answer would probably have been more appropriate for Question 2.  A recurring theme on this question and others?  Improve AT&T cell service.  (Author’s note: Happy to say that’s already on the way.)

Question 2 (What businesses do you want) had several requests for bed and breakfasts, and there were multiple requests concerning restaurants, including at least two specifically requesting Chinese food.

Question 3 (Is there sufficient parking downtown) was a combination of yeses and nos.  One person observed, though, that the way the question was asked might lead people to answer no, and stated that the question as asked might have been posed that way to justify spending money on parking studies, parking structures, etc.  Another person wanted to eliminate in-lieu parking fees.

Question 4 (What do you like best about being located in Sierra Madre) drew several comments about the safety of living here, as well as appreciation for the small town atmosphere.  One person said “From Michillinda to Santa Anita – home.”

Question 5 (How to make the town more family friendly) got multiple responses regarding schools.

Question 6 (what makes Sierra Madre ideal place to raise a family) was a blank sheet when I walked by, and I did not check the wall for other answers. 

Question 7 (what events/services do you most value) had only one respondent on the sheet that I saw (I know there were multiple sheets), and the person named many of the annual events, including 4th of July, Dickens Village, and the Wistaria Festival.

Mayor John Buchanan presented certificates to twelve school kids that were chosen as finalists in the essay contest, which was conducted at 4th and 7th grades of local schools.  More than 100 entries were received.  Winner of the contest for 7th grade was Sarah Troescher, and the 4th grade winner was Owen Vandevelde.

All five City Council members were in attendance, as were eight of the nine members of the GPUSC.  I only saw one member of the Planning Commission (the other body that will vote on the Plan produced by the GPUSC).  The forum was spearheaded by GPUSC members Colin Braudrick, Ed Miller and Debbie Sheridan. 

Unable to make the forum?  You can still participate by filling out the online survey.  You’ll find that here.

Click on a photo to enlarge it.

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