Davidson's new Board met on Tuesday for its first regular meeting since the election, and the change in tone from the dais was palpable.
Gone was the tension between official Towndom and the citizenry, something that had unfortunately become a fixture of packed Town Hall meetings in recent years. Replacing that tension was good conversation among all electeds, authentic conversation. None of it seemed staged.
On almost every agenda item, the conversation circled back to gaining real citizen involvement in the process of government.
The Board adopted a new meeting schedule with comments that it was still a work in progress. The 4pm Tuesday work sessions will likely become just that, heads down work sessions rather than meetings filled with presentations that are pertinent to the public. The new schedule also shows that the 3 day retreat in late January has now been moved to the River Run Country Club in town instead of being out of town where it is not easily accessible to the public or media. That's a decision that was apparently made during the mini retreat last Friday.
Another agenda item that was supposed to receive a vote was delayed so citizens would have time to review first. That was the vote regarding adoption of the new Rules of Procedure aShortChronicle wrote about here. The new Rules had just been posted last Friday, and Commissioner Fuller, who was attending the meeting via phone suggested the Board wait on their approval until citizens had a bit more time to check them over.
There were multiple conversations about planning related topics. Various comments from Commissioners showed that expectations of the Planning Department and the planning process will change. Instead of advocacy of positions, the Board is expecting information, both pro and con, to make decisions. It was also mentioned the citizen Planning Board may get a different charge where that body provides input above and beyond just saying whether or not something is "consistent" with current plans.
The last agenda item was even a discussion on setting up a series of "community dinners". The idea was presented by Mayor Rusty Knox as a way to put the divisiveness of the past couple years and the recent campaign behind the town and to provide an opportunity for interested Davidsonians to get to know people from various neighborhoods. Check back tomorrow for more on that idea in some commentary by Barbara Bryan.
Finally, just before closing the meeting new Commissioner David Sitton provided some off the cuff responses to citizen comments given at the beginning of the evening on a range of topics. As someone who was a regular commenter himself at public meetings over the previous year, Sitton wanted the speakers to know they had been heard and that their words weren't lost in the ether.
All in all, this new Board put its best foot forward in its first meeting, and if these first appearances mean anything the public should feel good that their input will be more welcome than in the past. For Davidson, that is a very good thing.