In the past 12 months, the Liberty City Council has experienced several meetings for which the community has filled the council chambers at City Hall.
Both the council and the community deserve praise for continued involvement in the city’s democratic process. From the community standpoint, it’s about ascertaining the facts, unifying neighbors and presenting their claims. For the council, it’s doing their collective homework, listening to the city staff, considering resident input and moving through the process.
It’s the democratic process at work. While it may take time, residents and council alike both want to see a growing Liberty thrive in the right way.
Beginning around this time last year, neighbors near the Blackberry subdivision came to the council chambers worried about the Homestead of Liberty development from Joe Duffey. Several neighbors in the Blackberry subdivision spoke out against the possible clear cutting of 10 to 11 acres of natural wooded area between the two subdivisions. They first spoke before the Planning and Zoning Commission and again before the council.
Due to their efforts, the developer reconfigured the development to save the trees. Plus, he also is willing to put in the required trail, which will benefit the continued push for a more walkable Liberty.
By late spring 2016, again the chambers were full with concerned citizens, fearful of the ramifications to their nearby homes if the council would allow Liberty Aggregates, a mining operation, to open. Again, through the Planning and Zoning Commission and onto the council, residents voiced their concerns.
While the council voted 4-2 in favor of the mining operation, residents were heard about limiting gravel pick-ups and inspecting the Missouri Highway 291 roadway. So while some of those concerned neighbors might say it was not a clear victory, the council listened and one councilman in particular reminded the crowd that the special-use permit allows city staff and council to hold the mining company’s feet to the fire if need be.
After that, there were various meetings on the Fulkerson house and property, which spurred the neighbors to unite in their collective talking points. In the end, the old house couldn’t be saved, but a proposed land density change was voted down, much to the joy of the neighbors, who offered almost two hours of public testimony before the council vote.
Neighbors also came out in either opposition or support for a pick-your-own fruit orchard. Through those many conversations, the orchard owner made many concessions to ensure passage.
Now, just this past Monday, Aug. 1, a sea of orange greeted the council during its study session about possibly eliminating the breed-specific ban against pit bulls. The Liberty Bully Alliance has also been working on a petition drive. A more directed study session about strengthening the ordinance on controlling and keeping out dangerous animals while examining the pit bull ordinance will be in the near future.
So what does this prove? It proves that the right to speak and question, and the willingness to act effectively and respectfully in public meetings can affect change in the world, or at least here in Liberty.
Don’t underestimate the power of a the individual citizen, voter, taxpayer, volunteer commissioner or councilman. After all, it takes everyone in this democratic system.