Councilman plans 'community hours' on Northwest Side

ThisWeek Northwest News by Kevin Parks

Columbus City Councilman Michael Stinziano, who appeared before the Northwest Civic Association at the group's March 2 meeting, will be back in the neighborhood Saturday, April 9, for one of his "community hours" gatherings.

Stinziano will be at the Panera Bread store in the Olentangy Plaza, 875 Bethel Road, from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

He said last week the informal meetings with constituents are something he started six years ago when first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives, and he decided to continue the practice now that he's "transitioned to representing the city."

"It's been really good," Stinziano said. "People are engaged and have ideas. I don't come with an agenda. We continue to see good participation.

"I find providing an opportunity that isn't downtown has been helpful, another level of comfort," he said. "These are more open."

Kyle Hartman, a member of NWCA board of trustees, applauded Stinziano for taking such an approach to meeting with residents.

"I think it's a wonderful thing that shows the wanting and the willingness to get out and be accessible, and to show they care about each of the communities, and not just particular communities," Hartman said.

"In the grand scheme of things, to be out from council chambers and see the neighborhood and hear from the neighborhood and be part of the neighborhood only empowers the people who live there."

Stinziano will also be holding three additional community hours sessions this month. They are set for:

* Friday, April 15, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Columbus Metropolitan Library Southeast Branch, 3890 S. Hamilton Road

* Wednesday, April 20, 4 to 5:30 p.m., Parsons Branch, 845 Parsons Ave.

* Thursday, April 28, 4:30 to 6 p.m., North Pride Center, 248 E. 11th Ave.

The meetings are not exclusively for residents in the immediate neighborhood, Stinziano said. East Side residents attending a community hours on the Hilltop discovered they had some common issues with residents of that part of the city.

"That has been a good consequence ... ," Stinziano said.

"I know I can't always produce the outcome people want, but learning where we can help and striving to do all that we can, not only my office but the rest of council, has been very worthwhile," he said.

The entire City Council is expected to be participating in another upcoming series of community meetings, none of them so far scheduled for the Northwest Side.

Those meetings, which run from 5:30 to 7 p.m., will take place:

* Wednesday, April 13, at Westgate Community Center, 455 S. Westgate Ave.

* Wednesday, April 18, at Lazelle Woods Community Center, 8140 Sancus Road

* Tuesday, June 21, at the Marion Franklin Community Center, 2801 Lockbourne Road

Hartman said he hopes to be able to attend part of Stinziano's April 9 community hours, but that's the same day his son turns 5 and a big celebration is planned.

"I may try to sneak out and at least say hello," Hartman said.