Convincing the City Council

Approaching City Government

Now that you have the petitions, information gathered from user surveys, the existing skatepark surveys and community support, it is time for the skatepark committee members and skatepark supporters to approach the city. The key to being effective when approaching city government is to be humble, respectful and prepared.

A lot of people will tell you that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It may be true that breaking down doors and demanding your rights as citizens may get you attention. However, this is not the approach I recommend and I have serious doubts that this would work when proposing a skatepark in your community.

What does work is preparation and documentation of support from within the community.

Bring the petition sheets and the information from your user survey, the results from the existing skatepark survey, a list of potential donors and site evaluations, and potential skatepark design plans (if possible). Make a list of all of the basketball, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, playgrounds and other recreation facilities that exist in your city. Record how many people actually use them and compare that to local skate spots. Get as many people as you can to attend the first meeting to show their support for both the skatepark and the skating community.

Toward the end of most city council meetings, there is a period of time set aside for public comments. When you go up to the podium, you will have to state your name and address for the record. Then, speak your piece. Keep in mind that most city council members are business professionals that have already put in a full days work before the council meeting. Make your points, but don't be redundant. If there is a huge turnout of supporters, you may want to recognize the group as a whole, but only let half a dozen or so supporters speak.

Begin your presentation to the city by explaining that a skatepark is just like any other sport or recreation area and should be evaluated from that position. Describe your comparisons of use from other recreation spots to your information on the potential use of a skatepark. Describe the problems with legislation against skating in public places, and point out that baseball diamonds were created so that kids would not play in the streets. This is comparable to what needs to happen with skateboarding. Tell them that the goal is to have a safe place to participate in your sport. However, don't expect a big handout. Let the city know that the skatepark committee members are committed, willing and able to help in anyway that the city needs and allows. Simply state your case for a public skatepark and submit the petition and other items for the record.

Don't be surprised if the city council does not express an opinion that night. City council meetings are open to the public and often reported on by the local media. There are other meetings, closed to the public where the city council is free to discuss issues with candor. Keep in mind that a group of non-skaters will likely decide the fate of your skatepark project during a meeting that you will not be invited to. Your only representation may be the information and personal impressions offered by your group up to that point.

Written by Anthony Gembeck