Rest Well My Friend
On April 22 I left the Southside to attend the 100th Arizona Town Hall in Tucson Arizona. This was the 50th anniversary of the Arizona Town Hall. The event had a historic feel to it, this being Arizona’s centennial year.
From their website (www.aztownhall.org): “Arizona Town Hall is a private, nonprofit civic organization created in 1962 to establish, through research and discussion, an ever-increasing body of Arizona citizens accustomed to the processes of searching analysis and well-informed on the many facets of the state’s economic, cultural and social life.”
From about 2000 recommendations to the Arizona Town Hall Board about 150 attendees are invited. This is a very diverse group: age, as young as 18 and as old as Methuselah; lots of folks with lots of letters after their name; the many different races and nationalities that make up Arizona were there; folks with very divergent political points of view and skills were represented; legislatures, a mayor, some council people; of course, work back grounds were varied. The one thing all of us had in common, other than having applied to, or been noticed by the Arizona Town Hall Board, was that we were all (or had been) very active in our communities.
In the Town Hall process you are put on a panel with about 30 unlike-minded people and then, like grapes in a press, consensus is squeezed from you. There is a panel chair (moderator) and a recorder. The panel is asked questions and after some, or much, discussion the recorder writes down what we all agree to–or at least do not strenuously object to. This is no place for the faint of heart or the bully. In the evenings, the recorders from all the groups gather together and they beat each other up until there is some consensus between the groups.
On the last day, you meet with your panel for the last time, you hash over the draft of what was done on Monday (which you received Tuesday afternoon) and the draft of both Monday and Tuesday, which you received a little after midnight on Wednesday morning. Your group is now in high gear. This is your last chance to add or subtract anything as a group. You are now preparing for the plenary session. This time, instead of making your case to 30 folks with whom you now can work with quite well, you must now face about 150 people, read your change or addition, say if you are speaking for your panel or for yourself and answer any questions that may come your way.
At the plenary session you begin to understand that this group is smarter than the smartest individual in the group: the magic of the Arizona Town Hall.
The topic for this Town Hall was civic engagement.
When I returned home on Wednesday, I was greeted with the sad news that my friend Joe Banks had passed. He was an amazing asset to this community. Not an easy man to describe, but a man dedicated to his family, his neighborhood, his community and his country. I will leave it for others to list all of his contributions. But, after spending four days with some of the smartest and most dedicated folks in Arizona, I can aptly describe this man as one of the most civilly engaged men I have ever met or who I am ever likely to meet. He always said I was a little slow but had potential. He will be missed.
Here is the definition of civic engagement from the final report:
“Civic engagement describes how an individual participates in the community in order to improve conditions for others and help shape the community’s future. Civic engagement
takes many forms, from individual volunteerism to organizational involvement to electoral
participation. It includes efforts to directly address an issue, work with others in a community
to solve a problem, or interact with institutions of representative democracy. Civic
engagement encompasses a range of activities, such as helping neighbors or working in a
homeless shelter, serving on a neighborhood association or school board, writing a letter to an
elected official, or voting. An underlying principal of civic engagement is that all individuals
should have the ability and opportunity to participate in these various types of civic acts.
Civic engagement is so important to the health of local communities and all of Arizona that
the participants at the 97th Arizona Town Hall concluded that one of Arizona’s top priorities
must be to promote civic engagement among its residents.”
This and more is the definition of Joe Bank’s relationship to this community. Rest well, my friend.
Written By Greg Brownell