Newly elected Pocatello City Council members Roger Bray, Claudia Ortega, and Chris Stevens kept one of their campaign promises last night as they held their first Community Conversation at Pocatello’s Senior Activity Center (Center).
Just under four dozen people sat in a large circle in one of the Center’s meeting rooms waiting to address, and hear from, their newly elected representatives. The meeting began a few minutes after 7:00 pm, with Stevens introducing Lenet Peevy-Neifert, who sang two songs, ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’ and ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’ Stevens commented, “It’s not about the three of us, it’s about those who elected us and the voters.”
Councilman Roger Bray then began the informal meeting by setting ground rules and informing those in attendance that, as a sitting Pocatello Councilman, he would be leaving the room when and if the discussion turned to issues currently on the City Council agenda (this happened several times during the meeting).
Ortega followed Bray in speaking, saying that, “Community meetings were promised on the campaign trail…we just want to hear your concerns…we’re hoping to have a lot more of these.”
The first question of the evening was a participant wanting to know what was meant by the three of them, “running together.” Ortega replied that, while each of them had some differences, they all held a fundamental set of beliefs about government, that government should be reaching out to the community rather than community members trying to seek an audience with elected officials.
Other questions and comments over the course of the two-hour meeting focused on the number of empty commercial buildings, blight, development, the railroad, the tax base, and taxes in general. A few of those attending stated that they, as residents, did not feel like they were listened to when they voiced their opinions to City officials.
The topic resulting in the most animated discussion of the evening was the proposal before the City Council to spend around $70,000 for a new city logo and branding. Several of those in attendance supported the idea of branding, but said that the cost was far too high and that local taxpayer money should not be sent out-of-state for the project.
Throughout the evening, Bray, Ortega, and Stevens stressed communicating with the public and fiscal responsibility. Stevens also said that, for too long the city had been, “reactive, not proactive.”
The meeting ended just after 9:00 pm with the three hosts urging unity and asking all Pocatello residents to come together to work to improve the quality of life in the city.