A couple weeks ago, I spent the weekend with my parents in the Twin Cities. We were driving through my hometown and noticed some new community art — metal sculptures of trees, strategically placed in road medians on top of cement slabs that hide drainage facilities.
While I appreciate the pragmatic approach to beautifying the city, I voiced one objection to the fabricated flora: I thought the sculptures were ugly. Of course, art is subjective, and I don't even live there anymore, so my personal opinion is irrelevant.
Later that night, my mom read to my dad and me a post on their neighborhood's page on the Nextdoor app. The writer was complaining about the very art that we had discussed earlier that day, sharing the position that the trees are an eyesore and questioning why nobody asked the residents before approving the use of taxpayer funds on the project.
Having spent about a year covering Worthington's city council meetings, I responded, "I'm sure they did ask, but this guy chose not to care back then."
The art would have to have been approved by the city council at some point, and anyone who has an opinion is welcome to make it known to them. However, voicing your opinion is a lot more useful if you do it before the council votes, rather than waiting until after the decision is made and the project is completed before you start complaining.
I did some digging, and, sure enough, the proposed designs were brought before the city council on Jan. 8, 2019 for consideration. The parks and recreation director explained that 70 artists submitted designs for the project, and a committee had narrowed down the options to a few for the council to decide between.
Because city council meetings have to abide by open meeting law, the city would have published the meeting's agenda at least three days in advance, letting the public know what was to be discussed. (Not to mention, this public art project had been in the works for years before designs were chosen.) The man could have attended and registered an opinion, but he did not. He could have called or emailed the council members in advance, but he did not.
Instead of using the ample time provided to let his government officials know what he thought before they decided, this Nextdoor user waited until the art project was literally set in stone, then took to the internet to claim his tax dollars were being wasted. Well, it's too late to change it now.
Friends, it's budgeting season in our community. Let's learn from the bad example of the man in my hometown. As city council, county board and school board members begin mulling next year's budgets, they want to hear what you think. The meetings are public, and anyone can attend. The Globe will report on the discussions, as well. If you wait to have an opinion until after the budget is finalized, you will be too late to make a difference.
Your voice matters, but it can make a bigger impact if you use it before governmental bodies vote on issues. In order to have an opinion about local issues, it's imperative to stay informed either by going to council meetings yourself or by staying up-to-date on Globe reports.
Thank you for caring so much about the community we share. Let's help each other stay engaged in the decisions that affect us all.