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BHNA Power Generator Meeting Report

We want to thank all of you that attended the power generator meeting this past January 12th. As the BHNA board members most involved in this issue, we also want to give you our perspective of the meeting and our efforts regarding the siting and operations of the power generators.

In an Oyster Shell

We want to thank all of you that attended the power generator meeting this past January 12th.  We were very, very impressed with the turnout and what it says about your caring and concern for Betton Hills.  We had 53 people register and 48 attend.  That’s remarkable!
    
As the BHNA board members most involved in this issue, we also want to give you our perspective of the meeting and our efforts regarding the siting and operations of the power generators.  

We did not come away from the meeting happy.  It was readily apparent that the utility staff were not going to change the siting or design of the generator or felt the need to improve the noticing process.  While we feel we learned many specific things for dealing with the city on future projects, we want to address three general points that are critical for doing better in the future:  boosting neighborhood consciousness, creating an alliance with other in-town neighborhoods, and building relationships with city commissioners and staff.

The Pearls in the Oyster

1. We need a stronger neighborhood consciousness.  

We’re speaking to the choir as you are the people that showed up at the meeting . . . and probably previous meetings.  But, here’s our takeaway.  To effect city interventions to make them more compatible with Betton Hills, we need to go “big” in terms of neighborhood involvement.  Even when the city’s plan may directly affect only a segment of the neighborhood.  Numbers drive results.    

Plus, we need to speak in a more unified and informed voice.  A neighborhood with a strong neighborhood consciousness doesn’t ignore, or worse, undermine the views of the most affected neighbors.  At some point, it’s likely that your (“your” in the general sense, not personal to you) part of the neighborhood will be adversely impacted by a city action of some sort.  You’ll be angry when Betton Hills residents don’t show up at the city’s “community involvement” meetings.  Or, do show up but speak against your concerns.  You’ll be angry, too, when your neighborhood association’s efforts are ineffective due to neighbors’ counterbalancing messages to the city.  This situation just makes the city stronger and neighbors more begrudgingly acquiescent and isolated.  The integrity of Betton Hills degrades over time.  

Here’s a credo of neighborhood consciousness:  “What helps one, helps all.  What hurts one, hurts all.”  If you don’t feel you have the time or energy to help, OK.  But, unless you are a very strong believer in the project, don’t hurt the efforts of those that do.  In the long run, they are protecting your interests not just their own.  That’s what a neighborhood is all about.

2. We need a stronger neighborhood-to-neighborhood alliance.  

Did I say above that numbers drive results? With Tallahassee growing at a rate of 1.5% a year, more people than live in the 800 households of Betton Hills move here each year. There’s going to be an increasing threat of imbalance between the needs for enhancing and accommodating growth and the needs for nourishing and preserving neighborhoods. We need to work with other neighborhoods in terms of supporting our mutual vitality, sharing information and expertise, and influencing city commissioners.

3. We need to develop strong relationships with the city commission and city staff.

City commissioners tend to focus on broad issues and depend on staff to work out a project’s design and implantation implementation details.  Staff, though, are evaluated on technical merit, fiscal control, and timeliness.  They are not the policymakers for balancing neighborhood and broader city concerns.  We must step into the process to resolve this responsibility vacuum to protect our interests.  We need to develop the mutual trust and respect necessary for strong, open, and clear communication with city commissioners and staff.  We’ll work to get their attention, clarify what is most important to us, and to offer constructive arguments and solutions.  

That’s the story in an oyster shell.  While this power generator project has been a hard after-the-fact mitigation effort for us, we did indeed learn some important lessons.  Unfortunately, those will not help the current situation but should improve our approach for future interactions with the city.  With your continued involvement and help, we’ll adapt and go forth to make Betton Hills the most friendly, safe, and livable neighborhood we can.  It’s worth it.

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