Canal Winchester City Councilwoman Jill Amos hopes coffee and conversation will help spur residents to interact more with those who are elected to serve them.
Amos and Councilman Will Bennett will be host to the first "Community Coffee" from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Jan. 26 at the Canal Winchester Rehabilitation Center, Skilled Nursing & Assisted Living at 6800 Gender Road.
The plan is to have Community Coffees at different locations on the last Saturday of the month for at least six months.
Currently, council provides public comment time at its regular meetings, which are held at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 10 N. high St., on the first and third Monday of each month.
However, there are limits on how long residents are permitted to speak during council meetings -- no longer than five minutes.
"I've had a lot of people come and say that they're uncomfortable talking in front of a microphone, but they do have questions," Amos said during a Dec. 17 work session. "So it's just to get us in a general setting."
Bennett described the gatherings as "listening sessions," where residents can share ideas, concerns and comments in an informal setting.
"I feel like people come here (to council meetings), they speak for five minutes, and we don't engage with them," Bennett said.
"This allows a casual conversation in a less formal setting."
Amos asked if other council members would be interested in attending the coffee events. No more than three council members can be present or the session would be considered a public meeting under the terms of Ohio's public records and open meetings laws.
Council President Bruce Jarvis and Councilman Bob Clark voiced concerns about residents mistakenly interpreting ideas discussed during the informal sessions as the views of the entire council.
"Somewhere you should have a disclaimer to say this is an individual outreach thing," Jarvis said. "You're not representing council or the city."
"Understand that you're not representing all of council," Clark said.