Public Speaker System In Downtown Douglas Tabled By City Leaders After Concerns Raised
The message coming from those few residents and merchants at Monday’s meeting regarding a proposed audio speaker system along Center Street in downtown Douglas was loud and clear: they don’t want it.
“I think it cheapens the town,” local resident Mark Neidlinger told the Douglas City Council, echoing the sentiment of others.
After thorough discussion and a 4-to-3 vote to table the $26,000 purchase and installation of the system, Douglas council members said they will continue mulling over the issue and instructed city staff to carry out a simple survey among possible affected parties, including merchants and downtown condo residents.
“If people are in favor of it, come forward and let us know because we are only hearing from those people that are against it,” said Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood, expressing what other council members wondered: Is there a possibility of a “silent majority” that does want the speakers?
“Homeowners were not asked for their opinion,” Greenwood noted, conceding the council may have “dropped the ball” by not thoroughly studying the issue, or as Douglas Council Member Kathryn Mooradian said, “I don’t like how this wasn’t planned out effectively.”
The speaker project is a collaborative effort between the city and the Douglas Downtown Development Authority (DDA), each entity proposing to contribute half of the total cost for it.
Ken Carls said that although he was not a downtown business owner, he was a long-time resident that had invested in his community and enjoyed downtown walks.
“I think it’s appropriate for a shopping mall, not downtown Douglas,” said Carls. “Who is going to decide the time the speakers will be on, the frequency, the content of messages and advertisements? We already live in an environment where we are constantly bombarded with messages.”
Local merchant Kim Neuens - a downtown home stylist and furniture store owner - had publicly spoken about the matter two weeks ago.
“I’ve been talking to store owners downtown and we are all saying the same thing. There are too many outstanding issues. There are too many concerns,” she told the council. “Let’s regroup and get organized (among merchants, residents, and city officials),” requesting the council to table the issue.
City leaders heeded that advice and following a discussion, moved to table the issue in a 4-to-3 vote.
Those who voted yea included Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Harvath and Douglas Council Members Patricia Lion, Linda Anderson, and Neal Seabert. Those who voted nay included Douglas Mayor James Wiley, Douglas Council Members Kathryn Mooradian and Lisa Greenwood.
The vote result, however, is not a reflection of a simple, black-and-white position—council members held varied viewpoints.
Seabert noted that residents ought to become more engaged with what is going on, rather than show up at the last minute to complain about something they don’t want.
And Harvath said city officials and the DDA have spent numerous hours and energy throughout the years on the project.
“We didn’t walk the streets (following the major Center Street reconstruction 12 years ago) and get the idea; it was brought to us by merchants.”