MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new initiative from Muskegon Heights is aiming to bring government to the people by hosting town hall meetings around the city.
Muskegon Heights City Hall is in the heart of downtown, near vacant shops and minimal foot traffic. Some say the city could use some heart to bounce back from hard times.
“I think Muskegon Heights has a lot of potential. It’s a great place to be and it’s a beautiful city,” said Thomas Smith, who owns the Urban Apparel men’s clothing shop that has sat across from City Hall for more than six years.
Smith is optimistic things will change and so is Muskegon Heights Police Chief Joseph Thomas Jr. He said he wants the conversations with the community to lead not only to a crackdown on crime, but also shifted mindsets.
“If you do certain things to build your community, you keep it clean, you keep your grass cut, you keep your noise down and so forth, then crime has a tendency to go away,” Thomas said.
The town hall meetings that will launch next week will focus on being observant and reporting crime in detail.
“When you allow people that sell drugs, when you allow people that carry weapons, to live in your home with you and your relatives and you know what they are involved in, then you become part of your own problem,” Thomas said.
A major concern among city leaders is a lack of community participation and few people showing up to city meetings.
“We need participatory local government. We need citizens to come out and give their two cents,” City Manager Jacob Eckholm said.
So they came up with a solution.
“Why don’t we take our concerns to them?” Thomas said.
“We need stuff like that,” former city resident Starlieghsha Houck said. “I think they need to get more things out for these kids.”
The forums will also dive into major fixes the city needs, like road infrastructure, new lighting and more jobs.
“If we can bring the government leaders to the people, maybe we’ll get a better understanding, maybe they’ll see the people personally and they’ll come out and meet with them and talk with them,” Smith said.