Apr 4 2015

Report on Recreation Commission Meeting: Value of Student Participation

Report on March 18th Recreation Commission by Piedmont High School student, Austin Willis-

On Wednesday, March 18, 2015, the Recreation Commission met as they normally do on every third Wednesday of the month at 7:30pm. The Recreation Commission is the government body in charge of the Rec Center and all its programs, as well as all the sports fields owned by the city.

The whole meeting was kicked off with a 10 minute long public forum in which three different students spoke on separate issues (including myself). The first student to speak was Xavier Prospero, who suggested that we have a large clock at Hampton in order to make it easier for athletes to tell time while they are playing their sport.

This led into the idea of a possible large clock at Witter Field as well, even though technically the Recreation Commission is not in charge of Witter Field; it is a School District responsibility.

Next, I spoke about a program at the Rec Department known as “Play”. This program allows young teens around Piedmont to put their name on a list, and people who need help doing miscellaneous things (yard work, babysitting, grocery shopping, etc.) will call in and get one of these teens who signed up to come help them out with whatever they need done. I thought this program could use more publicity, since I had been signed up for four months and received only two different people wanting my help with something. If more people knew of its existence, maybe more people would utilize it.Also I talked about more easily accessible work for teens around Piedmont.

Third to speak was Kennedy Christiansen who spoke about giving more publicity to the Piedmont pool free times so people understand they can come swim for free. She also asked for more free pool time. There is no doubt there is a general lack of student presence at these Recreation Commission meetings.  You could tell by the way they simply loved our ideas.

After the public forum came the first item on the agenda, an approval of the minutes for the February 10 meeting. This was approved unanimously. The second item on the agenda was the Chair’s report. Chair Levinson made a report including that the school district had approved a major fee increase on school sports using the fields. Then the issue of non-school sport users using the field was discussed, and the commission was informed by Chair Levinson that non-PHS sports would have to pay as well. This concluded the Chair’s report.

The third item on the agenda was the Director’s report. Director Sara Lillevand made a thorough report of several things including the Beach Field turf project (which was almost on budget), the lack of parking around the Community Hall, the possible renovation of Hampton Field within the next year (if funds are fully acquired), the installation of new locker rooms at the Pool, registration for summer camps, and the Sunday Easter egg hunt. The final item discussed in the Director’s report was the first ever family triathlon. This was all very straight forward reporting done by Director Lillevand.

The fourth and largest item on the agenda was the Community Outreach Project Update. This item was broken down into five components. The first was the On-line survey, which had launched in early March. So far there is a good amount of feedback, but the Commission really wants people who are not avid users of the Rec Department’s facilities to be giving feedback.

The second component was the town hall meetings that were being held on March 21st and 25th in order to gain more feedback on the Rec Department. Here a woman with the first name Jen ( I never caught her last name) got up to speak. She is actually the one facilitating the town hall meetings.

The third component was competitive analysis. Director Lillevand had made a rough draft list of some cities similar to Piedmont, and she was to assign them all out equally to the members of the Commission. The commissioners would then do some research, as well as get in contact with the Commissions of these cities to see how they were doing things. The point of this was to see if the other cities are doing anything really well that Piedmont could start doing also.

The fourth component was a suggestion box. The suggestion box is currently working through email and lots of emails are flowing in. They are considering getting an actual physical suggestion box (I think the physical suggestion box might just lead to pranks). The last component was the issue of focus groups in that they need a larger sample size.

I believe that in general the Rec Department should be thinking about and reaching out to more middle school and high school students. Most of these students do not realize that they have the capability to change things, and that if they use their voice, people might listen.

Item number 5 on the agenda was the Capital Improvement Program update. This program is one which the city gives out money to different projects with the extra money it has left over. Chair Levinson asked the Commission to think of possible projects for the Rec Department that they might want to submit.

The last item was Announcements and Old Business. This included the fact that the City Budget meeting is in May, and that Women’s Basketball was playing in the Northern California Championships on Saturday. As well as the fact that this was Commissioner London’s last actual meeting, and that Chair Levinson’s term would be over in April.

Here the meeting was adjourned. However, I stuck around to interview the only other person in the audience were five students, Jen, and one more woman, Teddy King. Teddy King is a member of the City Council. She used to be on the Recreation Commission, and because of this prior experience she was chosen to be what is essentially, “the City Council’s Liaison to the Rec Commission.”  She goes to the Commission meetings and then reports back to the City Council.

Going to this meeting allowed me to realize that I can actually actively participate in the government body. By attending meetings like School board, and City Council and all the other branches, I can actually affect the way the government runs and what they do. I found that to be exciting. I would encourage other students who want to affect their city or town to participate in these meetings.

by Austin Willis, Piedmont High School Student

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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