The turnout Tuesday of more than 300 concerned residents at the Fairfield Civic Center was great. There were older folks right down to toddlers. It was an important show of solidarity to have the City Council, chief of police and nearly a dozen police officers, as well as Fairfield-Suisun School District’s superintendent, Suisun City mayor, Solano County supervisors, pastors and other organizations coming together.
While most of the speeches (over horrible audio) were informative, Police Capt. Joe Allio was the standout speaker. He was passionate, focused and no-nonsense. He talked about meticulous investigations the police do day in and day out and shared with us the things police do on their own time with their own money to support the community. He wasn’t afraid to point the finger at parents who aren’t holding their kids accountable.
But while I thought the turnout was nice and many of the speeches were on target, I’m still left with the feeling that the meeting was a missed opportunity.
The public input part of the meeting was mishandled. There should have been a time limit for speakers, so more people had the opportunity to talk. When you have an open forum, after the people have sat and listened to over an hour of speeches, you don’t cut it short. Twenty-five minutes into the public input portion of the meeting, it was ended so City Council members could do some last-minute cheerleading. For a meeting billed to be from 6 to 8 p.m., why did it end early? Why weren’t the people given that time?
When you have a town hall meeting, the most important thing is to hear from the people. Sometimes folks just want to vent and I don’t blame them, because if you’re hearing gunshots while you’re feeding your baby, you’re petrified. But it’s not just venting and complaints, it’s hearing suggestions and ideas from the people. By cutting off the public’s voice, the “town hall” came across more like a press conference.
I agree with Operation THUGS founder Larry Bluford that the city missed a chance to spur people to action by having signup sheets or other information available. There could’ve been tables in the lobby with displays full of information on how to set up a neighborhood watch as well as pamphlets and information from the police, Faith Partners Against Crime, Mission Solano, The Leaven and others available for residents to take home. Though Nextdoor.com, a website that allows neighbors to communicate on a secure network, was mentioned, there could’ve been a presentation about the website to show people how it works.
I know it’s not politically correct, but I hope in future meetings more minorities will show up. Whites make up less than half of the residents of Fairfield, but you couldn’t tell that by the turnout. Everyone needs to be involved if we’re to beat back crime.
Even though I thought it could’ve been more inclusive, there was a lot of information shared and at least Fairfielders know the police, city, school district and nonprofit organizations are working together to make our streets safer.
But next time, let the people speak. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.