Friday, October 23, 2009

OPINION: Wanted: 80,000 Committee Members

By Doug Epperhart

Enough with the committees already.

We have three neighborhood councils, a Port Community Advisory Committee, a Community Redevelopment Agency citizens advisory committee, chamber of commerce, business improvement district board, and Arts Culture Entertainment district board, all of which have had some interest and input to the San Pedro waterfront master plan recently approved by the Harbor Commission.

And now various bureaucrats and activists are grappling with creating a committee to work with the port to flesh out the specifics of the master plan. Do we really need another group, likely staffed with the usual suspects, to advocate for the handful of San Pedrans who have somehow managed to avoid representation by one of the aforementioned bodies?

In fact, all of these entities – and many others – were able to get information about the waterfront plan, digest it, make their opinions known, and influence the outcome. There’s no reason to believe that won’t continue now that the plan has been adopted.

Here’s a suggestion for the port and community: instead of a committee of a dozen or two dozen of the chosen few, how about a committee of 80,000? Or at least as many of us San Pedrans who are willing to pay attention to what’s going on and offer our input.

The port has a high-powered publicity machine capable of telling everybody everything. Let them use it to provide regular reports on the waterfront, say once or twice a month. Those interested in getting these reports can sign up for emails, tweets, or snail mail. And everything would be posted on the web.

These communications should include a brief summary of what’s happened in the recent past, what’s expected to happen in the near future, and, most importantly, the opportunity for individuals to give feedback on proposed specifics. This could be done via email, online, telephone, or even at “listening sessions” where staff would be available for face-to-face discussion.

Along with regular updates, there should be public meetings at key points to gather a crowd to provide comment. Workshops should also be part of the mix.

The port has done all of these things in the past as a means to gauge public opinion. I’m sure they’ll keep doing them. Frankly, I don’t need another committee to get between me and the decisionmakers. And neither, I think, do most San Pedrans.

Doug Epperhart is a San Pedro resident, business owner and Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council board member.

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