Leadership Wilson Photo

Kevin Carr (at right) takes notes during the Lebanon City Council work session at city hall on Thursday. Carr’s Leadership Wilson group is attempting to expand citizens’ understanding about the procedural aspect of resolutions becoming law. Also pictured are (from left) councilor Fred Burton, mayor Rick Bell, Councilor Chris Crowell, and Carr.

Each class of participants in an annual nonprofit community leadership program called Leadership Wilson completes small-group, service projects.

This year, one of those groups is attempting to bridge the gap between citizens and government by making proposals under consideration more comprehensible.

During a Lebanon City Council work session on Thursday, Kevin Carr sat down with officials to discuss a way of implementing his group’s goal. Carr and his partners outlined an objective, to create and provide educational materials informing citizens wishing to participate in the governmental process how they can better prepare.

The group’s end goal is to create a more informed participating citizenry so that their time before local councils and commissions can be focused on relevant contributions.

As a means of delivering this material to the proper citizen base, Carr’s team is exploring the creation of educational brochures. He suggested handing out the prepared content to people who come to meetings. Currently, the city provides printed copies of the agenda before meetings, although much of the context is absent.

That was one element that Carr said he wished to improve for citizens to have a better understanding of the material, outside of the rigid language of proposed resolutions.

Carr also mentioned that his group has considered curating video content that could be shared through social media, as well as the governing bodies’ websites.

Source of confusion

Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell pointed to one inconsistency across the city’s governing bodies that he’s seen create confusion at times.

“The difference between the planning commission and the city council is that at planning commission meetings, each item is allowed to be addressed each time,” Bell said. “At city council meetings, we just have the public comment section at the very beginning.”

Bell said that he’d had citizens come up to him asking when they could speak about a specific item on the council’s agenda, just to learn that the procedure from the planning commission meeting differed from the council’s.

Another layer requiring clarification, as observed by councilor Chris Crowell, is that some citizens have formed misconceptions of official terms like petition.

“Getting something through the proper channels to an official ballot is one thing,” Crowell said. “Getting signatures from your neighbors opposing a development you heard about is different.”

Crowell added that he does not discount input from citizens and welcomes their comments. He even acknowledged that prior to his election to the city council, he was hardly as abreast of rules and procedures as he is now.

The mayor echoed this thought.

“We’re up here all the time,” Crowell said. “Some of the people who step up to speak, it might be their first time before the board, so they may not be as familiar with the procedure.”

Councilor Camille Burdine explained to Carr that often times is the case that something under the planning phase never actually gets built, citing projects’ demise that she saw as the city’s councilor on the planning committee. Each term, a councilor is selected by the city council to serve on the planning commission. Crowell currently holds the seat.

One example that Burdine offered was the step involving the traffic study that new developments must complete.

“Just because we approve something doesn’t mean it definitely gets built,” Burdine said of projects being derailed by a bad traffic study test result.

Sometimes, there are several procedural steps that a proposal must make that could appear as three different projects, so it can be mistaken as multiple projects, when it’s really just one. Bell highlighted annexation as one case in which this misunderstanding arises.

“Annexation has three items that get voted on — request for annexation, rezoning, application of services,” Bell said.

Leadership Wilson

Approximately 30 participants from Wilson County business, education, civic, religious, and government backgrounds receive a comprehensive leadership training opportunity.

Experiential learning, day-long seminars, group discussions, field trips and retreats create a forum to exchange ideas and discuss areas of interest.

Each class presents the opportunity to understand and analyze segments of the county, ranging from health care and social services, to agriculture and business, or in Carr’s group’s case, government.

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