In the Trib Talks June on-line forum we talked about “Our Town.” One participant referenced the “mixture of harmony and tension that underlies growth and diversity”. As in past forums, participants expressed concern about divides developing between North and South Columbia. Another participant observed “we need more opportunities that bring dissimilar people together to learn that we actually have more in common than not.”
After the forum yet another participant offered these comments through our survey:
I would like to see more joint projects between the universities and colleges and the youth of Columbia through the public schools and/or community organizations.
Most leaders do not interact with all the citizens! #1 would help break down these walls of economic and culture differences. It may allow a larger group of people to cross these cultural/ economic lines.
James Brown said, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door, and and I’ll get it my self. Education and shared experiences are the keys to open doors!
What divides are you concerned about? What bridges would you like to see built? Join us and other citizens for an in-person forum this Tuesday, September 20, from 7 to 9 pm at the Tribune’s offices. Enter from Walnut street. We hope to see you there.
Whether you call it profiling or disparate impact, the data shows that in both Columbia and Boone County, black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be stopped by police. Sunday’s article “Driving While Black” reviews the data, the questions, and the consequences related to this fact. Readers have observed that this pattern relates to poverty and other inequities identified in past forums.
What questions do you have? What experiences would you like to share? What changes would you like to make in our community? Why and how?
Come join other citizens on September 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the offices of the Tribune (enter on Walnut Street) for another citizen-led dialogue. Share what’s on your mind and listen to others.
Real people, real dialogue. Join in a conversation that matters. We hope to see you on September 20.
Concerned about where we going as a country and as a community? What can an ordinary citizen do to make a change? You can help by participating in a new kind of conversation – one that focuses on “all of us” and not “us” v. “them”. You can join in one of the Trib Talk Forums, or host your own conversation in your neighborhood, with your dinner group, in your faith community, or anywhere that your friends and neighbors gather. Begin by downloading the community dialogue guide “Are We An Us?“, or one of the related mini-guides, “Addressing Inequities“, “Citizen Centered Planning“, or “Building Bridges“. We have a checklist which will help you plan dialogues within your neighborhood or organization and report back in on thoughts shared.
Our forum participants asked the question “are we an us?” long before the violence of the last two weeks left leaders nationwide calling for dialogue. Efforts by local leaders to create more dialogue included a news conference where the issue of racial profiling was discussed, and an open mic event sponsored by MU’s Black Studies department.
To make a difference, dialogue needs to be sustained. It’s up to each of us to reach out, to listen, to share our own thoughts, to listen again, and to stay engaged.
Wondering where you might start? You can start by downloading the community dialogue guide “Are We An Us?“, or one of the related mini-guides, “Addressing Inequities“, “Citizen Centered Planning“, or “Building Bridges“. We also have a checklist which will help you plan dialogues within your neighborhood or organization and report back in on thoughts shared.
The Tribune publication “Sharp End”, published in 2015, can also serve as a starting point for discussions about race in Columbia, as can the documentary “Battle: Change From Within“. The “Charleston Syllabus,” which was created in response to the June 2015 murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina provides many additional resources.
Do you have additional resources to share? Add your suggestions in the comment section below.
“City asks for citizen input and then doesn’t do anything with it.”
“Vision, don’t forget VISION!!!”
“We don’t know our neighbors.”
“What would it be like if we could come together as one WHOLE community?”
Our past forums have made it clear that the citizens of Columbia are concerned about where we are going as a community. Our new community dialogue guide, titled Are We An Us?, shares the thoughts, ideas, and actions that have been captured to date. You can download the guide and join the conversation. Join in on this blog, on our next forum, or in your own backyard! Our Neighbor2Neighbor guide walks you through the process of hosting your own conversation with friends and neighbors and reporting back in.
Our next forum is an on-line chat forum, hosted by Columbia Daily Tribune managing editor Jim Robertson, Tuesday July 21 from 5 to 6 pm. To join, go to http://columbiatribune.com/ on Tuesday and follow the link.
We look forward to hearing from you.
In addition to healing divisions reflecting age, class and race, participants in our February forum further identified a need to build bridges of communication and collaboration between City and County governments, City government and citizens, and citizens and City staff. The Battle students raised the question of how to strengthen connections between schools and community. Several people observed that without proactive dialogue between citizens, planners, and elected leaders, Columbia runs the risk of developing a geographic divide between North and South Columbia, like the geographic divides that exist in the St. Louis area. Holding regular community dialogues within school buildings could begin to address some of these issues.
Other communities, including Carbondale IL, have used sustained community dialogue to help solve difficult issues. Columbia headed in that direction with the Imagine Columbia’s Future visioning process, although that dialogue was not sustained following that process in the ways envisioned by the public. What could a “community commons” for dialogue look like in Columbia? What might we accomplish by working together?
“Groups of people getting together and talking is never a waste of time! That is the only way to build communities.”
“Need more open democratic system for discussion.”
“People can’t seem to disagree without it getting personal.”
These were all comments made by citizens who attended the recent Trib Talks forum “Are We An Us?”
It was an energizing exchange that resulted in much productive dialogue and several ideas for action. We will be posting more of the comments and ideas shared on the three themes – Building Bridges, Citizen-Centered Planning, and Addressing Inequities – over the next few weeks. In the meantime, view more pictures and resources in this summary from reporter Alicia Stice.
Keep the conversation going and join us!
The Tribune’s City Editor Matt Sanders presented the facts on the number of children receiving free and reduced price lunch in our schools in an op-ed Sunday. He also outlined what the schools are doing to help children in poverty. Several of those who commented on the article were less than sympathetic.
What kind of community do we want to be? “Are We An Us?” was a question raised in our past forums and will be the topic of our next forum scheduled for next Thursday evening, February 11, at the ARC, from 7 to 9 pm. Join us as we explore questions related to community here in Columbia, MO.
Another opportunity for information and dialogue directly related to the questions Matt raised occurs Monday night, February 8, 6 pm, also at the ARC, as the Cradle to Career Alliance screens the film “Wounded Places“. This film explores the effects that chronic poverty has on children. Members of the Minority Men’s Network and the Worley Street Roundtable will facilitate the post movie discussion.
And if you want to take Matt’s challenge to explore your assumptions about poverty, here is a place to begin: Poverty USA.
What is citizen-centered planning? Our forums identified at least three factors:
- Adequate notice and opportunities to be heard.
- Opportunities for meaningful input.
- “Reporting back.”
What is adequate notice and opportunity to be heard? It includes reaching out to citizens in ways that get their attention and adequately inform them why input is needed. Consider Dave Meslin’s Ted Talk “The Antidote to Apathy” for ideas on how this area of planning might be improved. Ideas shared by our participants included more readable notices provided in a variety of formats, scheduling meetings at different times of day, and at accessible places served by public transit.
What makes for meaningful input? This would include opportunities to help define the problems to be solved, not just comment on proposed solutions. It includes timely provision of information — citizens should not be asked to a meeting and then told a 100+ page report has been issued just that afternoon. It also includes efforts to help break down complex issues and provide information in context and formats that help citizens digest that information. Boone County’s recently released Citizen’s Guide to County Finances is a good example of one effort to do just that. “Meaningful input” also means that there is actually a possibility that the input will make a difference. It is the opposite of what our participants described here:
“With the trash issue, the city asked for opinions, and then it appeared they were definitely going to use roll carts. At that point I stopped responding to surveys.”
“Was the city really “up in the air” about rollcarts, and wanting to gauge opinions, or were they trying to find out “If we do this thing, how many people will hate it?” I am being facetious but the perceptions were there that participation was meaningless.”
Reporting back simply means communication on what input was received, how it was used, the decisions made, and the reasons for these decisions. Forum participants thought this was an area where significant improvements could be made.
Share your thoughts on “citizen-centered planning” in the comments. Where do you see it? What changes would you make?