On April 26, 2022, there were two open public meetings scheduled at the same times in Canonsburg PA. These were a Canonsburg Council Workshop meeting at 6:30 PM and a rescheduled Canon McMillan School Board meeting at 7:00 PM. As a wannabe engaged citizen, I wanted to attend both meetings, but I couldn't and I had to make a choice.
The Canonsburg Council Workshop, was the 4th meeting in a series that started on Jan. 31, 2022 and was originally billed as a way to engage with the Canonsburg council for ideas or suggestions on how to spend the ($990,000) American Rescue Plan Act funding. I attended three of the meetings and submitted a few written proposals to renovate a playground in the east end of town and to build my original raised bed garden/safety barrier designs around the town of Canonsburg, like at the Senior Center or in the parks. So, I decided to attend this 4th and possibly last workshop meeting.
The earlier workshop meetings were announced and got a fairly good citizen turnout for concerns, mostly about parking problems and possible solutions in Canonsburg. This last meeting wasn't publicly announced by the council and there were only two of us non-council citizens. Also, invited guests of the council were Senator Bartolotta, her chief of staff, and the president of Penn Strategies, a grant writing firm from Harrisburg, contracted by the Canonsburg council.
Although the council office reported that no agenda or minutes were being done for the workshop meetings, they did produce a "summary of possible spending" and a "wish list for grant projects."
As the main speaker of the meeting, the Penn Strategies president did state that grants for playgrounds are very beneficial and have a great success rate for approval in all communities. Senator Bartolotta suggested applying for a variety of grants and reported that her office receives many requests for park and community amenities such as, benches with dedication plaques.
My proposals were not on either of the Canonsburg council's lists, so I congratulated the Penn Strategies president, offered my extensive knowledge and experience as a former U.S. Certified Playground Safety Inspector and PA Child Care Health and Safety Inspector with over 2500 playground safety inspections, and then I left for the Canon McMillan School Board meeting.
I arrived at the school board meeting around 8 PM, just in time to hear some kind words of appreciation for a resigned school board member, Mike Caporizzo, and the introduction speeches of three excellent candidates offering to fill the vacant school board position.
Unfortunately, like the Canonsburg council meetings, there is little to share publicly, since there is little compliance with the intent or essence of the Sunshine Act. The meetings are not videotaped by the council or the school district, for citizens who are unable to attend in-person. The meeting minutes, if published at all, are difficult to access and usually void of any timely and meaningful content. If a taxpayer-paid solicitor is present, they seem to be disengaged or engaged in limiting the citizen's time and opportunity to express their concerns. Also, there seems to be a disengagement between the these important meetings and the reporting by the local Observer-Reporter newspaper.
Finally for now, and with the hopes for a more transparent, informed and engaging community, I would like to share a good definition of a community. A community, is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share a government, share needs and interests, and perceives itself as a district in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.
What's in your community?