Editorial: Completed City Hall renovation points to the vitality of our gathering places

January 7, 2012

This space was last devoted to the idea of eligible citizens signing up to serve on open positions on local governmental boards.

But speaking of space, it should also be said that just showing up at local meetings is a way of doing public service.

As it happens, public places in this area are in an interesting phase of change.

Most notably, City Hall has been consolidated into one building, at Second and State streets.

Monday's open house (details on page A3) is an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door and check out the remodeled once and future City Hall. The City Hall remodeling is modest in scale, and the place is hardly fancy, but its interior design works better now as a public space. Warm colors and a pleasant combination of natural and artificial light make it a far more welcoming place to go for a permit or pay a bill.

That said, one of the last improvements to be done before Monday's open house is replacing the main entrance. (Don't be put off by the temporary brown tarp over the doorway.)

A revised city hall serves as a timely reminder that there is more to the place than permits and water bills.

Think of it as what it is: a public venue where citizens' interests are the main value.

Meanwhile, with City Hall renovated, the County gets use of its conference room back, and it's a good time to remember how easily accessible is that space for the public to frequent.

And at the same time that the city settles into its new City Hall, work is nearly complete on another public facility across town: the new fire hall. This building will also be an inviting one for the public, and has in part been designed for use as a meeting space.

Public meetings, be they city councils, county and port commissions, school boards and others, are typically very sparsely attended. The fact is that they can be mundane, but they are interesting, if not lively, far more often than many people perceive them to be.

There is no replacement for being there when it comes to learning about what goes on with your local taxing districts. This year, give your local board a chance to show you that attending a meeting can be a truly eye-opening way to participate in public affairs.

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