Observation and thoughts on the UP meetings:   

During my visit to the urban planning meeting in early February, I was intrigued my many issues but I want to focus on a few.     
    First, having attended two UP meetings now, I am somewhat familiar with the personalities and interests of each of the committee members.  Each member appears to have their own niche or area of concern when property issues arise.  One, for example, often focuses on the aesthetics, specifically, the style of the house and landscaping (especially trees).  Another's thoughts are geared more towards social issues, especially when affordable, low-income housing issues are on the table.  Finally, another member usually has the legal remifications of any issue at the top of his list and is quick to remind and clarify these concerns for his fellow members.  Obviously, the myriad concerns expressed during the meetings reflect their varied backgrounds.  (This was confirmed when discussing my observations with Sandy).  Undoubtedly, the members use their diverse talents and concerns to their advantage as they approach every issue from a multitude of perspectives.
    Second, I am very impressed with the attendance at these meetings, as well as the passion and informativeness displayed by those that choose to voice their opinion on a particular issue.  Despite my current training in social studies education, I have never really been that politically active, nor incredibly civic-minded.  My experiences at these meetings has certainly raised my awareness of significant public issues and discouses at the local level.
    Finally, the technological resources of the committe certainly play a major role in the decision-making process.  The parcel maps that are regularly displayed give a tremendous amount of visual information (and context) to the committee members.  Additionally, I have also been impressed with a few of the maps of the various contractors and architects that were presented to the committee.  Clearly, many private companies have access to this GIS technology as well.  I assume that the local government committees are the ones that have to "catch up" to the private sector with regards to the latest technology as a result of more limited funding.  Am I correct in this assumption?
    Well, both visits to the UP meetings were enjoyable and interesting.  The experience has cetainly motivated me to try to attend future local government meetings.  Sandy, thank you for the invitations and enabling me to see geography utilized in an authentic setting.