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The People’s Reporter this week got into an interesting exercise tracking down the members of Marti Emerald’s mysterious advisory committee.
Today, I got a chance to talk to Emerald herself.
She said she cited the group in her endorsement of a new downtown library and City Hall because its support for the capital projects “surprised” her.
Meanwhile, the existence of the committee itself surprised some of her constituents had never heard of the “District 7 Advisory Council.”
Emerald told me the advisory group is composed of 20 to 34 individuals who meet with her on a quarterly basis about neighborhood issues. She created a list of people interested in joining the group while on the campaign trail, and current participants received membership by responding to an invitational letter after the election.
She first met with the group over the summer. Emerald scrolled through the membership list with me and said some of the people are interested in the environment, youth organizations, community planning, schools, medicine, media and real estate.
“This is kind of informal, a kitchen cabinet. They kind of just talk about issues that are important to them,” Emerald said. “I don’t want to get myself cut off from the community.”
Emerald said the group decided to hold a second meeting with the Mayor’s Office to talk about proposals to build a new City Hall and downtown library. She expected the citizens might oppose the projects like some polls have showed, but they voiced “overwhelming” support.
“This was an issue that was of some importance, and I was kind of surprised. It wasn’t unanimous, but it was so overwhelming … so I wrote about it,” Emerald said.
Some of our readers have criticized the councilwoman’s decision to cite a relatively small group of citizens as a key factor behind her decision-making.
“Wouldn’t it have been better if additional community members had some input into this endorsement process rather than having just the folks on the list making the decision in secret?” said John Pilch, president of the San Carlos Community Council, in an e-mail.
Emerald said her endorsement does not disregard the work of other community organizations and committees. Residents can also contact her office about joining the Advisory Council, but Emerald said she doesn’t want the group to become large and lose focus.
“Everyone brings a little something to the group,” Emerald said. “This is just a little more independent and across the entire district.”