Citizen Academy

Brent Finnegan -- November 17th, 2006

You may have seen this article in the DNR a few weeks ago about the 10-week course the city set up to explain what each department of the city does. I was one of the 15 city residents that took the course. I realize that might make a geek, but if I’m writing about the city, I should at least make some attempt to know what I’m talking about. Besides, blogging is already pretty geeky… Anyway, last night was the last class, where everyone got their “diplomas” and got city pins from Rodney Eagle. I thought a brief review of the course might spark interest for some of you the next time the class is offered…

Each class (every Thursday evening) consisted of going to some department (council chambers, HPD, public works, transportation, etc) and hearing from the people that work there about what they do.

Here are a few random things I found out during the course:

– The city council positions are part-time jobs.
– Cities in Virginia can no longer annex (spread/expand).
– About 30 percent of the city’s annual budget goes to schools & education.
– City residents and businesses produce over 120 thousand tons of garbage per year.
– The city incinerates a percentage of that garbage, and sells the energy produced to JMU.
– There are 82/83 traffic signals, and 100,000 people driving through town per day.
– The number one cause of pollution in Blacks Run is that people in the city don’t clean up their pet’s waste.
– The Emercency Communications Center (local 911) found a practical use for instant messaging.
– Larceny is the most common (reported) crime in H’burg.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the city, or written angry letters to the DNR about how “the city should fix that traffic light at the intersection of Neff and Reservoir,” this is a good way to get a behind-the-scenes look at how and why the city makes its decisions. I don’t know how many other cities do this sort of thing, but it’s probably the best way to have a well-informed public. I think everyone that votes in local elections should take it, regardless of how long you’ve been living here.

There are rumors that the class might be offered twice a year, but that’s up to Miriam Dickler. Contact her if you want more info about the next class.

Hopefully fellow academy grads (David, Kai, Josh) will leave comments here and add their thoughts on the class.

-finnegan

4 Responses to “Citizen Academy”

  1. David says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the above commentary on the Citizen’s Academy, or as my friends have termed it “The Upright Citizen’s Brigade”. I walked away a more competent voter and aware citizen. Why even today I wrote a really biting letter to the jerk who wrote a letter to the editor claiming that city council had “raised the car tax”. The Citizen’s Academy gave me insight into city government that I only wish was available more through news channels. Perhaps all reporters should be required to graduate from the Academy prior to gaining their positions. If you are interested in going through the Citizen’s Academy I would suggest that you register early!

  2. Josh says:

    I recommend the academy for community-minded geeks who are interested in the inner-workings of the city. Not all criticisms of the city are undeserved, but many criticisms and ill-feelings could be prevented through a better understanding of how everything fits together. I look forward to seeing my fellow academy grads around town! :-)

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