Geoff Folsom

Geoff Folsom

I sat through an epic Union Park Advisory Board meeting last week.

With no meeting in July because some members were on vacation and they knew a quorum was unlikely, the board made up for it with the August meeting. They had a packed agenda, with the meeting taking two hours start to finish.

And for a change, it had good attendance from board members. The park board often has had trouble getting the required seven members to attend, but this time, nine of the 12 board members showed up.

Another big change was that city officials from outside the parks department attended. Along with Alderman Dennis Soetebier, the aldermen’s liaisons to the park board, Mayor Bob Schmuke and City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann also were there.

It has been nice seeing Schmuke, who was appointed mayor in June, attend more meetings than his predecessor. Along with the park board, he attended the Union Development Corp.’s August meeting. Instead of hearing the boards speculate about whether the aldermen would agree with their plans, they can get a good idea of what the city thinks about it from the mayor.

I wouldn’t criticize anyone for limiting the events they attend in the past year and a half. Nonetheless, with Schmuke retired from his day job, it’s good for Union to have a mayor who is visible at city events.

I was surprised to see Schmuke putting up the inflatable screen at a recent movie in City Park, but it turned out he was helping his son’s company.

On Thursday, there were a couple instances where Schmuke answered questions the park board had about how the aldermen will react to recommendations the park board makes. Though he only votes to break a tie (which doesn’t happen much in Union), Schmuke does bring 20 years’ expertise in how aldermen think.

He let the park board know about his enthusiasm for the model trains the St. Louis Live Steamers are considering bringing to Union and that he doesn’t think the board of aldermen will charge for use of city land.

As a longtime Union Area Chamber of Commerce board member, Schmuke also was able to give insight into what the chamber charges food vendors to sell at its events. The city is considering lowering the prices it charges outside vendors.

But the city officials in attendance were not the only ones whose presence added to the meeting. Several members of the Steamers were there, bringing photos and drawings of their planned tracks.

A couple other people from the community also attended to let the park board know about the programs they are working on. I will update you on those in the coming weeks.

Even though the meeting took nearly two hours, it was a nice reminder that it’s good for people to take part in their local government.

As the meeting finally ended, Zimmermann joked that the last board of aldermen meeting took only three minutes. Although a two-hour meeting every week (especially after a long day) wouldn’t be ideal, I think I’d take it over a three-minute meeting.

I like when Parks Director Chad Pohlmann goes into detail about programs the parks department is doing. It’s worth a story more often than not, and even if it’s not worth a story, at least I heard enough about it to know it’s not.

Then the park board members give feedback and come to a consensus on what they want to recommend or not recommend to the aldermen.

That kind of deliberation is what government is all about, and it helps me better understand what’s going on so I can report it to you.