By Gale Mamatova
Redistricting has been a heated discussion in our city. It is not surprising that residents are passionately arguing for their own interests, while the mayor is struggling to usher change. Redistricting means letting go of the status quo. Current state is often associated with comfort and security, while change is different and unknown. However, change is inevitable.
Our city needs to revisit their approach centering on bringing residents along through access to information and effective communication.
Navigating our city website is challenging, to say the least. One of our neighboring cities recently launched a community engagement site to help facilitate access to information and create opportunities for engagement in their current initiatives. Our city needs to invest in a community engagement tool to bring diverse stakeholders along, giving them opportunities to share their ideas efficiently and effectively.
When thinking about access, offering interpretation services is a start, but doesn’t sufficiently address inclusivity. One of our neighboring cities pays a bonus to employees who speak Spanish as well as English; 17 city employees earned that bonus in 2019. Why aren’t we investing in hiring multilingual staff as part of our equity efforts?
Finally, the last but most important action is communicating and listening with intent. One thing that consistently stood out in city meetings is that our mayor listens and responds — but does not hear. Residents seem frustrated and do not feel heard. We can learn to listen to each other with curiosity rather than with judgment. If we want to bring our neighbors along, those in leadership positions with the City of College Park need to invest in learning to listen with intent so that people around them feel more represented, supported and understood.
Residents understand that redistricting is important to our democratic process. Participation and providing input is vital. We did our part, now it’s up to city leaders to step up and lead us through this change effectively. The ball is in their court.
Gale Mamatova (They/Them) is vice president of the North College Park Community Association and a certified change management professional.