Community Engagement Initiative
The Citizen Governance Conference
There is no time like the present to start planning for the future. Here
in the Braddock District, our citizens are ready to take hold of the
future and make it their own. Nearly 100 Braddock residents turned out
for our Citizen Governance Conference. Not only did they devote a
Saturday to learning about County policy, they devoted themselves to
continue working on these issues going forward.
Important issues face the County and district. Infill development, where developers seek to build in small empty places tucked in various hidden corners, could add pressure to already-dense neighborhoods. We now understand the importance of stormwater and runoff to construction projects. Areas such as Fairfax Center, which was planned in the 1980’s, need to be updated. Parts of Annandale need to be revitalized.
With 250,000 people coming to the county in the next few decades, we need to pay serious attention to traffic congestion and crumbling roads. Our population is aging and that means new challenges ahead. Communities and schools need to work together more constructively. Our County budget needs to plan for the future, not seek to resurrect the past. These are just some of the issues our citizens have agreed to tackle by establishing as many as five citizen governance committees.
I’m looking forward to working with our engaged citizens as they dive into this important policy work. For my part, I pledge that their recommendations will be taken seriously. Our land use committee will be a mandatory part of the review of all development applications. Our transportation group will be an important part of the County’s overall effort to engage citizens in reviewing our options for funding future transportation options. Well developed policy recommendations will go to the Board of Supervisors and County staff to be part of the foundation of future County policy.
A special thank you to those who attended our conference and pledged to stay engaged. You are an inspiration to us all, and your energy and enthusiasm give us confidence in a brighter future.
Engaged Braddock Residents Make Citizen Governance Conference a Success
Nearly 100 participants strong, Supervisor Cook’s Citizen Governance
Conference, held this past Saturday, showed what an engaged, civic-minded
populace we have in Braddock District. “We are at our best when we don’t
spend all our time pursuing our own interests, but fully engage in our
citizenship opportunities,” said Supervisor Cook. “Policy is best when it
is informed by engaged citizens.” And creating a system whereby citizen
committees provide advice and counsel on a number of policy topics was
exactly the purpose of the conference.
The morning of the conference gave attendees the context and knowledge base to begin to see where their input is needed. The County Demographer, Anne Cahill, gave a presentation on the Braddock District’s demographic characteristics; Supervisor Cook provided a look at the current comprehensive land use and transportation plans for Braddock; and there was a panel of leaders of citizen committees in other districts. In the afternoon the focus was on the small breakout sessions that covered five subject areas: Land Use and Environmental Management, Transportation, Aging in Braddock, Education, and the Fairfax County Budget.
The conference concluded with a report-back session where we heard from a spokesperson from each breakout. The overwhelming desire was for citizen committees to be formed to begin to address many of the issues talked about all Saturday long. The work on establishing these committees has just begun, so if you were unable to attend but would like to get involved please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for furthur updates.
The Community Engagement Initiative
It has been said that you don’t need to move in order to live in a better neighborhood. This statement reflects the power that individuals possess to effect positive change in their communities. As our lives have become busier and more complex and our society more diverse, we have lost some of our connections to one another, leaving us more isolated as individuals and our communities less connected than they once were. However, the Kings Park Neighborhood Initiative, which I launched as civic association president to increase civic engagement and pursue innovative approaches to property maintenance issues, proved that a desire for strong communities is very much alive. It just requires a bit of encouragement and direction.
To build upon that work and to expand its successes across the Braddock District, I am launching a Community Engagement Initiative. This Initiative is the result of a collaborative effort among my office, the Braddock District Council, Fairfax County’s Departments of Systems Management for Human Services and Community and Recreational Services, and Volunteer Fairfax. Our aim is nothing less than to generate a renewed sense of community and a new wave of service. We want to give community organizations the training and resources they need to marshal the great ethic of volunteerism that we know resides within the people of this county. We will train a new generation of community leaders, and build dozens of ‘engaged communities’ - places where people have made a specific commitment to strengthen their communities.
Building stronger communities begins with building stronger connections between people. It is incumbent upon us to get to know one another. Each month, I encourage each and every one of us to meet one new person on our street or in our neighborhood. We should hold block parties and say hello as we pass neighbors when walking down the street. And as our communities become more diverse in age, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, we must make a greater effort to get to know people with backgrounds different from our own. To make all feel welcome and invited to participate, our community organizations must make a special effort to reach out and include all people.
We use the term ‘community organizations’ in the broad sense. It includes home owners associations and civic associations, PTA’s, community pools, recreational clubs, scouts, and business and religious organizations. It also includes non-profit service organizations, which need not be geographically constrained. In all of this, government will act as a facilitator – bringing people together, providing expertise, sharing best practices and lessons learned.
I hope you will join me in the effort and commit yourself to helping to build stronger communities. Working together, we will usher in a new era of community engagement that will provide lasting benefits to all our communities.
If you would like more information on the Initiative, including information on Neighborhood College and the Leadership Institute please read this brochure
The Community Engagement Initiative in the News
Launches Community Engagement Initiative (Connection,
October 7, 2009)
* Community Engagement Initiative Kicks Off (Connection, October 21, 2009)
* Community Engagement Initiative Pushes On (Connection, January 6, 2010)
* Strengthening Civic Leadership (Connection, January 27, 2010)