The ability of citizens to address the grievances they have with government bodies is one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It helps, though, when you can talk about the issues not just with civic leaders, but the residents that live in your community as well.

That is what makes the city of Brunswick’s neighborhood planning assemblies such a valuable asset for the city commission and city residents. The Midtown Neighborhood Planning Assembly met for the first time Monday with a lot of issues to discuss.

Those in attendance at Monday’s meeting included elected officials, law enforcement, business owners, residents and other stakeholders. Lashonda Billue, who owns an insurance business on Norwich Street, serves as the assembly’s chairperson and went door-to-door inviting everyone in the neighborhood to attend.

A lot of topics were discussed at the meeting. Crime is always something that concerns neighborhoods, but Billue said the midtown area was a lot safer in midtown the past several years. Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones backed up Billue’s observation, saying that crime is down 33 percent in the past three years in the midtown area. He credited the police’s community policing efforts, where cops get out of their cars and talk to residents, with the falling crime rate.

The homeless situation in the area was also brought up, including the growing number of homeless single mothers. Nonprofit agencies are joining forces to help out, with access to services and immediate housing the greatest needs.

It is good to see residents gathering to talk about the issues that affect their neighborhoods. City commissioner Felicia Harris deserves praise for suggesting the creation of neighborhood assemblies. While the turnout wasn’t huge on Monday, Harris urged the residents in attendance not to be discouraged by that. She told them to be prepared for a good turnout if any controversial issues arose.

You don’t have to go too far back in time to find an example. A lot of people turned out to discuss a plan nonprofit Hand in Hand was pursuing to turn Harpers Joy into apartments for the homeless. The feedback from the neighborhood led Hand in Hand to withdraw its plan and look at other options.

We encourage city residents to attend when their neighborhood planning assemblies meet. If your neighborhood doesn’t have one, then ask around and see if the residents in your part of town would be interested in starting one.

Billue said that the assemblies “give everyone a voice.” Let your voice, and your neighbors’ voices, be heard.

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