My unofficial motto for the City of El Dorado: "A Community that Cares."
The City of El Dorado’s official motto is: “The Fine Art of Living Well” - which can resonate with all of us as we strive daily to make the best of our lives - to live well in terms of health and happiness: to attain wellbeing physically and spiritually.
• It’s not just for us, but also everyone in our extended family known as our “community”.
Having moved here less than two years ago, my unofficial motto for El Dorado is: A Community that Cares. As I meet with community leaders, service providers, and residents, I am continually amazed by the many ways they contribute to El Dorado being a community that cares. In naming our blog Community Grace, we sought to acknowledge this amazing strength and potential in our community.
• A modest-size congregation that donated almost a ton of food to The Salvation Army last October.
• The man with a snow blower who clears the sidewalks and driveways for frail neighbors.
• Leadership Butler sponsoring a food packaging events to provide free meals to food insecure households in Butler County last year, and also bringing the True Lies Tour to high schools this month as part of an bullying reduction effort.
• A church’s Sunday morning program for young children in unchurched families - providing transportation, breakfast, Sunday School, and lunch - offering them God’s love and a respite for their busy parents.
• Numana Gardens donating fresh produce to The Salvation Army for distribution to those living with food insecurity in our community. • The woman in line at the grocery store who volunteers to pay for the groceries of the mother with small children who finds she doesn’t have enough money to pay for all the food in her cart. ]
• The El Dorado School District providing free breakfast and lunch for all of the children who attend its Summer Academy.
• The cadre of volunteers with Mission El Dorado who spend a week in June helping to repair houses of those needing a helping hand - elderly residents and those with disabilities.
A Role For Our Local Government
During the recent Mayor’s debate, the four candidates were asked a question about the role of our city government in meeting the needs of those among us who are living with financial and food insecurity (aka known as poverty), whether long-standing or temporary (such as a recent job loss or serious medical problem preventing employment). The candidates appeared caught off guard by the question. Here’s some thoughts to help the remaining two candidates with their thinking about this.
The role of government in a "Community that Cares" might include:
• Elected officials and department heads who intentionally kept themselves informed of community needs at every level. This requires expanding their sources of information beyond those few residents who know how to contact them and do so. It’s involves finding access to those who are largely invisible and unheard.
• Serving as a centralized repository of critical information connecting community strengths, needs and resources at all levels. Gathering, maintaining, and making such information easily accessible in order for the community (churches, nonprofits, civic leaders, etc.) to respond to those needs. Using social media such at Twitter and Facebook, as well as official websites for the city overall and its service departments, our local government should be proactive in reaching out to all residents (versus expecting them to come to you).
• Being a positive role model and providing leadership that sets a positive tone for and promotes civil involvement by a wide diversity of the populace.
• Remove barriers that interfere with the community engaging in caring activities. An example is the City’s Homeless Task Force appointed last year to make recommendations about transitional housing to prevent and reverse homelessness. Right now, it’s impossible to find any information online about the status of that task force, not to mention that the efforts of the Butler Homeless Initiative (BHI) to have ordinance amended for this purpose have been ongoing for around two years.
• Be ever vigilant in avoided unintended consequences that decisions might have on those living on the margins, such as residents with disabilities and those living in poverty or at risk of homelessness. Consider, for example, the unintended adverse effects of building the new Middle School so far from the most impoverished areas of our town -- imposing transportation barriers to family involvement in PTO meetings, teacher conferences, etc.
• Using public meetings, hearings and other government events to educate and inform residents of critical issues and potential responses. There is a need for greater transparency and accessibility of information. City Commissioners apparently have access to considerable information to read in making their decisions but that information is rarely shared with the public before the meetings in which they are considered. An example is the City’s Sales Tax Advisory Commission: It’s futile to try finding online who are on its current members or copies of their reports to the City Commission.
We’re not saying that our city officials aren’t doing any of these listening and informing tasks. But from time to time, there is a need for those who govern to engage in a critical self-assessment regarding how they are doing on these fronts - with widespread citizen input. Elections are only a small piece of that. Those who get elected or otherwise serve our City have an ongoing obligation to provide leadership that reflects the list above.
Community leaders lose their way when they become disconnected from those who are marginalized economically, geographically, socially, or otherwise. In many places this disconnect is akin to a spiritual malaise more threatening to the common good than any particular economic practice.
As a clergy friend observed in an email:
"At the heart of the New Testament lies the principle of the oneness of Christ's body. Every part is connected to every other part. We get in trouble when the hand says it has no need of the foot, or the 'more honorable' (more glamorous? more sexy?) part believes itself to be independent of the 'less honorable' or the 'less presentable' (less glamorous or sexy?) one"
• Butler Homeless Initiative (BHI)
• Leadership Butler:
• Mission El Dorado
• Numana Gardens
• Servant leadership: http://www.forthesakeofothers.com/
• True Lies Tour
• USD 490 Summer Academy