Civic Engagement and Our Future
On April 8, 2011, a diverse group of interested citizens, community leaders and South Mountain Community College Faculty gathered with experts in planning, transportation, education, leadership, public safely, media, community image and civic engagement from across the Valley to have a community conversation billed “Villages in Transition III.” This day-long symposium was hosted by the South Mountain Community College with support from the South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce, the South Mountain/Laveen Village Festival Committee and the Rio Salado Yacht Club. Total attendance was about 100 actively participating and engaged individuals who shared their knowledge and challenged the experts.
The agenda for this event was subtitled “A Community Discussion of Past, Present and Future.” The Symposium did a great job in presenting the Southside’s history and did a very good job describing the challenges our community faces at present, but what about the future? The planners of this event had hoped that the attendees would be inspired to get involved by the sessions “Leadership,” “Lunch with your Leaders” and “Civic Engagement.”
Dr. Afsaneh Nahavandi from ASU did a fine job describing what leadership is and what leaders should be. She left us with the warning that leaders need to remember that it is not about them, it is about the people they serve. The “Lunch with Leaders” gave the attendees an opportunity to meet their leaders face-to-face and sandwich-to-sandwich.
Leaders from the Board of Supervisors, the Corporation Commission, several School Boards, and the State Legislature listened to the concerns of the community and shared their goals and aspirations. Notably absent were any elected officials form City Districts 6, 7, and 8 or the mayor’s office. In some ways, it seems like the city ends at 40th Street to the east and the Salt River bottom to the north.
Finally, the “Civic Engagement” section presented by Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo of the Maricopa Community College District was a lesson in how tricky but necessary civic engagement can be. It isn’t about voting once in a while, it is about taking charge of the political world that surrounds us all and to which we are all responsible.
Now, the South Mountain Community College has stepped up again to bring us a “South Mountain Counts: A Community Conversation with the Candidates for Mayor of Phoenix” It will be held on June 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Performance Hall, 7050 S. 24th Street. This will be an opportunity not only for the community to hear from the candidates, but for the candidates to hear from the community. The format for this “conversation” is not the typical “candidates’ debate.” The first part of this conversation will be the candidates listening to general questions asked of the audience that are relevant to our community. Then the candidates get to take the stage to answer more specific questions that will hopefully be just as relevant.
If you would like to submit questions prior to the event go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is just as important to take responsibility for our political surroundings as it is take responsibility for our physical surroundings. If there are parts of our villages that are struggling physically, ask how that part of town is doing with its civic engagement.
If we can’t get our elected officials to cross the river after they are elected, we can at least get them down here before they are elected.