So, you want to keep track of what's going on in your neighborhood and the city, and help advocate for the future you want to see, but you're not quite sure how to get started? That's understandable.

Between public meetings, online engagement platforms, committees, commissions, and City Council, it is hard to keep track of what it happening when, where, and why. Here's a handy guide for untangling it.

How do I find out when stuff happens?

  • The City Clerk's site is a great resource for all things KCMO city government. Each week, there is a combined agenda for all of the council committees (http://cityclerk.kcmo.org/LiveWeb/Meetings/CombinedAgenda.aspx) listing the dockets for all of the meetings planned that week. These committees address new issues before they are passed on to the full council, so it is the best way to get in on the ground floor for a new issue. While these groups tackle issues citywide, you can scan for addresses in your area quickly, or just search the text for stuff you are interested in. And here's a calendar (http://kcmo.gov/calendar/) of everything coming up at City Hall.
     
  • If you want agendas pushed to you, you can sign up to have agenda mailed to you automatically. It can get a little spammy, but it is a quick and easy way to review everything happening as it is released. Sign up here: http://webfusion.kcmo.org/ColdFusionApps/listbot/
     
  • So you're saying it isn't easy for you to take hours out of your day to go sit at City Hall? Well, you can catch all of the Council proceedings on Channel 2, the city's government channel. It can be streamed online both live (http://kcmo.gov/citymanagersoffice/channel2/), or you can dig into the archives on demand (http://kansascity.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2)

So, what are all of these groups, commissions, and committees?

Here's a few, all of which have meetings that have agendas posted ahead of time and are open to the public -- usually with an opportunity to provide comments during or afterward:

The Parking and Transportation Commission is a City Council-established, mayorally-appointed body providing governance on transportation issues within the greater downtown area. This group consists of leaders from neighborhood and industry groups, and also includes the Director of the KC Area Transportation Authority, the Director of Public Works, and several members of the City Council. I was appointed as a representative for the Downtown Neighborhood Association and was recently appointed chair.

The PTC meets monthly to address all things transportation impacting downtown. We receive briefings from city staff on issues and projects, and make recommendations to the City Council for adoption. This group provided the groundwork for the streetcar, and has been the mechanism by which one-way streets have been made two-way, signage has been improved, sidewalks and streetscapes standards have been established, parking regulations have been standardized, and transit improvement studies have been coordinated. All of the little changes to downtown sidewalks and streets that change our neighborhood experience start here.

The Parking Policy Review Board was formed as an offshoot of the PTC for the purposes of reviewing proposed changes to parking policy in the greater downtown area. Before, parking changes were managed through a variety of disparate processes, all of which were not well coordinated with each other or grounded in policy. As downtown grows, the city-controlled parking inventory will become more important and more challenged. The review board has the task of getting that process under control, and for making recommendations on citizen and business requests for changes to public parking policy.

The Board also reviews and makes recommendations on parking technology, enforcement techniques, and holistic parking law, in coordination with City staff and the police department. Improvements like ParkMobile smartphone payment for on-street parking happen through this group.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority is the body appointed to operate the streetcar. It was created by City Council resolution to allow those paying the most for the streetcar — downtown residents and property owners — to have the most substantial role in operating the system. This group meets monthly, and handles business including the hiring and managing of a company for day-to-day operation of the streetcar system, coordinating the marketing efforts for the new line, and managing safety and security concerns — among many other things.

The Greater Downtown Area Plan Implementation Committee is tasked with implementing the expansive and ambitious goals of the Greater Downtown Area Plan [PDF], a long and highly involved vision for Greater Downtown that the Downtown Neighborhood Association has been heavily involved in since its conception. The plan was adopted by Council in 2010 and serves as the principle guiding document for everything we’re doing downtown.

While all of these groups are driven by the area plan goals, the Implementation Committee works on the practical steps to take to move the plan forward. Most importantly, the committee recommends one coordinated discretionary funding request (through the city’s PIAC program) on behalf of all downtown neighborhoods. This competitive process usually brings many requests, and the broad downtown coalition’s ability to agree on priorities has gone a long way toward making the right improvements at the right times.

But what, there's more! These groups aren't limited to Downtown-related issues, but downtown projects will cross their desks when they apply.

  • The City Council, which has 5 committees (http://cityclerk.kcmo.org/LiveWeb/Committees/Committees.aspx) that review issues in their focus areas before they go to the full council.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is the city's go-to group for making recommendations for a more walkable and bikeable KC
  • Board of Zoning Adjustment reviews requests and grants exceptions to zoning regulations, which could have an impact on development in the neighborhood
  • City Market Oversight Committee keeps an eye on the operations of the city-owned City Market
  • City Plan Commission covers all kinds of projects, including reviewing the plans for development projects, zoning, and land use throughout the city
  • Public Improvements Advisory Committee decides how a special fund for neighborhood improvements is spent, which is a popular method for neighborhood projects

The easiest way to sort all of this out? Join and participate in the Downtown Neighborhood Association! The DNA team is keeping an eye on these items and advocating for downtown residents whenever it can, and DNA members have official spots on many of the committees mentioned. Follow the blog and DNA on Twitter and Facebook, and add your voice to the mix at meetings and in social media when issues arise. Have a concern or question? Let DNA carry it into the discussion by sharing it!

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