City Focus brings city hall into the community

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — It’s not every day residents get to see the city administration on a theater stage.

The latest City Focus event, held Thursday night, featured Mayor David Berger and the city’s department heads under spotlight at Encore Theater explaining ongoing city projects and hearing resident concerns.

City Focus meetings aren’t anything new for the city’s administration, Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith said, but Thursday night’s meeting worked as a way for neighborhood association members to meet and greet each other under one roof while giving residents in the area a venue to learn more about the city’s efforts on a number of projects.

“We wanted to the bring the city into the community,” Smith said.

A large portion of the two-hour-long event featured department heads going over their latest work — from the “big dig” to create an overflow basin at Simmons Field to the up-and-coming Youth Commission — in order to give a quick look into what’s happening currently in city hall.

Residents also had the opportunity to ask Berger questions about a number of city issues. But while Berger worked to satisfy concerns, some questions dealt with groups the administration has little control over — mainly private companies and their investment in the community.

On the topic of the Greater Lima Region, Inc., Resident Amber Basares asked about what the private nonprofit’s plans are for the future.

“I can’t tell you what their plans are, because I don’t know what their plans are,” Berger said.

The mayor explained that since the GLR has not been allocated public funds, the city administration has little influence in setting GLR priorities despite the mayor’s efforts to meet with the group to discuss a number of matters.

A similar question was posed about the city’s efforts to convince larger businesses to reinvest into the community, but that question received a similar answer.

Since private companies aren’t involved in local government (and some are outside city limits), the mayor has little influence telling large companies what they can do with their dollars.

One of the more interesting exchanges of the night involved resident April Nester, who asked the city about its lack of an overarching development plan.

Berger explained past efforts to put such a plan together. As has been the case on a number of city-led projects, Berger said receiving public approval has often been difficult.

“We have attempted in the past to see if we can do an overall zoning plan,” Berger said. “When we’ve done that, it’s generally been rejected.”

Berger also offered the example of the city’s 2017 effort to adopt a landlord registry to help improve the city’s housing stock.

“Every time it comes up, it gets shouted down vigorously,” Berger said. “We’ve not seen an appetite for it.”

Nester encouraged the administration to be “more creative and tenacious” in finding that support, which received a smattering of applause.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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