About 100 residents came out Thursday night at Wynnbrook Baptist Church, to the first of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s four quarterly public forums to express concerns about policing and other issues.
Students from several high school AP government classes attended and added their take on problems facing the community.
Joe Feliciano, who heads up the Mountainbrook Neighborhood Watch Association in Green Island Hills, expressed concern about police response times and strangers cruising through the neighborhood, sometimes taking pictures of houses.
“Most of our vehicles have a sticker on them. I’m always curious when I see a patrol and I see strange vehicles, why aren’t these vehicles challenged?” he said. “We’ve had strange vehicles that we know don’t belong. What is being done?”
Tomlinson answered that in a gated community, it’s easy to challenge drivers who don’t live in the neighborhood.
“But when you have public streets, it’s very hard, in fact it may be impossible, to stop a car for no other reason than it doesn’t have a tag or doesn’t belong,” Tomlinson said. “You have to have some sort of cause, some sort of reasonable suspicion that something is going on.”
Edie Miller, who lives in Brookstone, complained about speeders in her neighborhood, and that the city has been unresponsive to the neighborhood’s pleas for help.
“Years ago, we didn’t have as many teenagers in the area. Now it seems like every teenager has a car. My dog was killed by a speeding car right in front of my house,” she said.
Miller said she and neighbors have gathered petitions and asked the city for help, but to no avail.
Deputy City Manager David Arrington said the city has a procedure through which it gauges a neighborhood’s interest in reducing speed. The city does a traffic study to see what’s needed. Arrington said what the city often finds is that the cars aren’t breaking the speed limit, but appear to pedestrians to be doing so.
He also told Miller he would take her contact information and see how her concern can be addressed.
Maggie Kelly, a Hardaway International Baccalaureate student, voiced a concern often expressed by Columbus teens: There’s nothing to do. She said she and her friends don’t see themselves staying in Columbus for college or after college because of a lack of entertainment options.
“Not that we don’t have enough to do, but not enough that our parents would want us to do,” Kelly said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “We want something that’s safe, supervised and, of course, low cost, because we’re students.”
Tomlinson suggested that Kelly and her friends contact the city’s parks and recreation department, which is developing programs for students.
“I would also say, hold on, because whitewater is coming, and it’s going to change everything you know about weekend trips for local young folks,” Tomlinson said. “And I’m not talking about long. I’m talking about this year. So before you even think about going somewhere else for college, that’s going to happen.”
Thursday’s was the first of four quarterly forums Tomlinson will hold in 2012, called “Let’s talk ... with the mayor.”