Friday, February 22, 2013

Playing catch-up on Mentor City Council

Going to the first city council meeting is very similar to reading a new novel without the first few chapters. The same questions pop into my head in both circumstances. Who are these people? What are they talking about? Why should I care?  What exactly is the conflict? Is there even a conflict?

This week was my first Mentor City Council meeting, and it was a game of catch-up. It turns even more awkward when you’re assigned to cover the meeting for a news outlet. Thankfully, Betsy Scott covered the big story atthe meeting. I idled in my chair scanning through name tags and faces, and matching them up with the officer’s list on my agenda. It took only a few minutes to deduce who on the booth was Mentor’s City Manager.

I’ve covered other city council meetings before: once in Orchard Park, N.Y., and a half dozen in Kent, Ohio. Each city council has different conflicts, different rules and different backstories.

They also have different hot-button issues that lure residents to share passionate soap-box speeches on the podium. In Orchard Park, it was stonewalling commercial development for pedestrian safety. In Kent, it was isolating long-term residents away from student housing and its line of destruction. At this week’s Mentor City Council meeting, I learned that someMentor residents care deeply about the deer population. Some would say too deeply.

Two residents rose to the podium at last Tuesday’s meeting to demonstrate their anger over how many deer were killed in Mentor Lagoon this past year.

“The signs at Mentor Lagoons read ‘Mentor Lagoon – Nature Preserve,’” said one resident, Barbara Welker of Mentor. “I think they need new signs. Maybe ‘Wildlife Kill Zone.’ There isn’t one deer left—let alone a herd--in the Mentor Lagoon.”

I don’t have the background or insight to know which side in this deer fight is wrong or misinformed. But like any great thriller novel, the characters have compelled me to read, listen and follow along to how this conflict unfolds and whether any new surprises arise. Passionate advocates are almost always the elements of a gripping story, and I am very interested to learn more about this fight.

-Simon Husted


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