Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Civics Alumni Event Nov. 10th at Phillippi


From Vickie:

Hello Everyone,

I’d like to invite you to attend the last class of the fall 2011 session for Civics. The class will be held at Phillippi Estate Park. Please see attached flyer for more details. The theme of the program is “Our Sarasota Legacies – old, new, future.”

In the past, I have asked people to bring food to share with the group but this time I would like to ask you to bring an item to donate to the All Faith’s Food Bank. So please bring a non-perishable item to share with our community.

Please let me know if you plan to attend by November 7th.

Best regards to you all,



Friday, September 16, 2011

Input on Administrator and Volunteer Opps

Volunteer for National Public Lands Day
SunflowerHelp celebrate the 18th Annual National Public Lands Day from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Sept. 24, at Sleeping Turtles Preserve in Venice.
What citizens want in a new county administrator
Magnifying GLassFive public focus groups honed in on thecharacteristics and qualities that Sarasota County residents feel are most important for this position.
Clean up the coast Sept. 24

BeachsunsetVolunteer to clean coastal and other areas during the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup. The event takes place 8 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Sept. 24, at sites throughout Sarasota County. To sign up, call 941-861-5399.

County scores high in survey



Most Sarasota County residents say their quality of life is excellent, according to results from the 2011 Sarasota County Citizen Survey. See how else the county scored in spending, property taxes and crime.

GradeA+

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

National Wildlife Federation: Community Wildlife Habitats


The NWF is offering a free webinar about how to create a community habitat in your community for wildlife - it's next week:


Webinar: Starting a Community Wildlife Habitat Project

Would you like to help your community become a Certified Community Wildlife Habitat? To learn how to get started, please join us for a free webinar. Presenters will include team leaders from certified communities around the country.

Date: Tuesday, September 27th

Time: 3:00-4:00pm Eastern time

More here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Public Input Sought

From Sarasota Patch:

Two meetings will seek comment from residents about key county issues:

The county is actively searching for a new county administrator. Because of a tighter budget, SCAT bus fares are slated to increase by $0.75.

Today the county wants to hear from you on both of these topics at two separate meetings.

Thursday, Sept. 8

  • 10:30 a.m., Selby Library, 1331 First Street, Sarasota
  • 2 p.m., Phillippi Estate Park in the Edison Keith Mansion, 5500 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
  • 6 p.m., Venice Community Center, 326 S. Nokomis Ave., Venice

Friday, Sept. 9

  • 10:30 a.m., North Port Library, 13800 S. Tamiami Trail, North Port
  • 2:30 p.m., North Sarasota Library, 2801 Newtown Blvd., Sarasota

SCAT Fares

A public meeting on proposed increases in Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) fares will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. tonight, in Room 112 at Sarasota City Hall, 1565 1st Street. Three public meetings were held in August and an additional meeting was requested to gather more public feedback, the release said.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Call to Artists

A new visual art program launched by the City of Sarasota invites local artists to display their work for the public within a City owned building for three months. Pieces will be on display in the Federal Building, 111 S. Orange Avenue, beginning Monday, October 3, 2011. The displays will change four times a year. More here.

Volunteer Public Art Coordinator
Virginia Hoffman via email @ Virginia.Hoffman@sarasotagov.com

Project Manager: Dr. Clifford Smith, Sr. Planner City of Sarasota, Florida 941- 954-4195
Clifford.Smith@sarasotagov.com

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A transportation survey for everyone


Do you walk? Jog? Bicycle? Drive? Walk with a pet? Need special assistance getting around? The county wants your input.


Sarasota County wants your input on what's most important in planning new bicycle paths, new pedestrian walkways, and intersections that involve vehicular traffic. Click here to go to the county's website where you can find out more, or click the button to take the survey. The survey contains a place where you can mention special concerns or priorities.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fall Civics Taking Applications

Seats still open for fall Civics 101 session

Civics class
Sarasota County government's popular Civics 101 program still has a few seats
open for the session beginning Sept. 8.

Civics 101 is a 10-week session that introduces people to the operations and services of Sarasota County government. The Thursday-night classes give students a better understanding of how county government works and allows them to build relationships with county staff. (MORE)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Take the Survey


Sarasota County wants bicyclist and pedestrian input for future paths:

Sarasota County’s first Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is under development. We want your input!

The first draft of the plan is expected to be available in summer 2011. The plan is designed to outline a safe, convenient and efficient bicycle and pedestrian system that provides access to major destinations within Sarasota County and surrounding counties.


Click on "Take our Survey."

"Changing the way we're growing old"

By 2050, 1 in 5 Americans will be seniors. Worldwide, almost 2 billion people will be 60 or older, 400 million of them over 80, says the AP:



Atlanta is creating what it calls "lifelong communities." Philadelphia is testing whether living in a truly walkable community really makes older adults healthier. In Portland, Ore., there's a push to fit senior concerns such as accessible housing into the city's new planning and zoning policies.

Such work is getting a late start considering how long demographers have warned that the population is about to get a lot grayer.

"It's shocking how far behind we are, especially when you think about this fact — that if you make something age-friendly, that means it is going to be friendly for people of all ages, not just older adults," said Margaret Neal of Portland State University's Institute on Aging.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Civics 101 Spring Graduation and Recognition


Belatedly (sorry!) here's the Civics 101 Graduation for the Spring Civics 101 Class. The enthusiasm of the classmates and the special recognition of Civics Class Coordinator Vickie French -- a $1,000 contribution for a tree and a plaque in her name at the Celery Fields -- are remarkable. The Civics item comes up quite early - about the 2 minute mark.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Civic Literacy and Ill-literacy

Lynda Seidl shared a link to another Civics Literacy Test:

Full Civic Literacy Exam (from our 2008 survey)

Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen? The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%. Can you do better? Questions were drawn from past ISI surveys, as well as other nationally recognized exams. LINK.

What's disturbing is the remarkably dismal performances of college educators and elected officials. Is literacy an endangered species?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Celery Fields coming into its own






We've covered the development and opening of The Celery Fields as a park and a habitat - here's a blog post on Sarasota Patch about how happy people are finding new things to do there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When is property not properly taxed?

Richard D. Wolff on the improprieties of how property is taxed:

Monday, June 6, 2011

An older civics conversation in Sarasota

Jeff LaHurd has a terrific piece about how Sarasota County owes its independence to a split from Manatee County in 1921, to form its own more perfect union. It's not an entirely unfamiliar ring to it:
In September, Edwards, Sarasota's first mayor, who was in charge of gathering relevant data, reported: "The territory comprising the proposed new county is paying considerably more into the county treasury in the way of taxes than it is receiving back; the area which comprises one-half of the present county is represented by one commissioner, while the other half is represented by four." More...
A terrific photo of the temporary old courthouse accompanies the text -- they had angle parking downtown even then - who knew?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Apply Online for Civics 101, Fall 2011 Session

From the Planning Dept:

Civics 101 - The fall session for 2011 starts September 8th, 2011. Applications are now being accepted.

Civics 101 is a program designed to provide a toolbox of resources on Sarasota County operations and services. The program provides an in-depth and behind the scenes introduction to operations in Community Services, Emergency Services, Financial Planning, Health and Human Services, Planning and Development, Public Communications, Environmental Services and much more. For instance, there are outdoor learning opportunities provided like visiting some of our county parks; Carlton Reserve, Rothenbach Park, and others.

Civics 101 has two sessions - Spring and Fall - both of which are held on Thursday night each week for 10 weeks. You must also participate in one of the many outdoor learning opportunities scheduled. Twenty-five residents are accepted each session on a first-come, first-served basis.

Civics participants will graduate at a Sarasota County Commission meeting upon completion of the requirements outlined in the schedule.

Fill out the application here.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Two from NPR


Bicycle-sharing schemes are a fixture in European cities like Copenhagen, but now they are taking root on American soil. In Washington, D.C., over the past eight months, the nation's largest bike-share system has become so popular, it may become a victim of its own success. Click here for story.

What to do with failed golf courses? In Palm Beach, they're turning a course into a 160-acre park with a driving range, concert lawn, bicycling lanes, picnic grounds. Deerfield Beach is turning half of an old course into a cemetery. And Davie is transforming a former exclusive course into, voila, an affordable golf course.

Incidentally, the Sarasota County Government Sustainability page on Facebook is a rather solitary place - it could use some friends.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Walk 21

Anyone who has visited Vancouver knows it's one of the coolest cities on the continent. I remember being struck by the reticence of the drivers as I walked through downtown. So polite were they that no horns were heard, no screeching tires, and in fact, one could hear the cries of the distant gulls as they few over the harbor.

They're into walking. Now they're holding a conference on walkability, Oct. 3-5, 2011.



More on walkability here, inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Civic reflection

As Sarasota County finalizes the terms of Jim Ley's departure, one might ask whether, and how, a more open civic dialog might have helped shape a clear, mutual understanding of what is happening.

Not a final overview -- it will be quite some time before a balanced assessment of Mr. Ley's role as county administrator will be possible. Rather, an interim understanding that recognizes his achievements while holding him and all our public officials accountable for actions that are still under investigation.

What seems missing as these details are put in place is, well, the civic voice. The sense that before sending this long-term public official out the door, what he and the County Commission have agreed upon does justice to the people whom they serve.

Under Mr. Ley's governance, the County has kept a tight lid on public spaces for discussion, input, review, and general conversation. The county by policy appears to eschew social media of all forms.

Maybe it's time to take a fresh approach to communicating with ourselves.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Parking changes in effect


New parking areas and charges are in place in downtown Sarasota - click link for map and more info.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Concurrency: An opportunity for civic discussion

Concurrency has been a doctrine in Florida for decades. Essentially it's the rule that new development should not exceed the capacities of roads and other local infrastructure, and should pay to bring the two into balance where deemed necessary. It's been called the "teeth" of growth management.

Now that the state legislature has chosen to remove the Concurrency requirement, what impact could this have? Is Florida about to show a bold new toothlessness?

It will be up to localities to decide whether and when to apply concurrency criteria. Obviously as the newspaper story indicates, many who live here and who attach a significance to quality of life are unhappy with the way lawmakers are going.

What can local government do to help clarify the implications?

For one thing, we have professional planners, as well as regional planners with tremendous expertise. Why not do some projections of how proposed developments are likely to impact traffic, water, population, and more? Take one or a few examples of proposed projects and examine how they would look with and without Concurrency in place.

Then invite the public to view and discuss what they come up with. If this isn't a matter for a public, civic discussion, what is?



Friday, May 6, 2011

Civics Alumni Event May 19th

From Vickie:

Hello,
It’s that time again for all of us to reunite at the Civics Alumni event on May 19th at the Venice Community Center. Our guest speakers are Bill Furst (Property Appraiser), Commissioner Robinson (District 3 – our new commissioner), and Jeff LaHurd (Sarasota historian and author). The event begins at 5pm and will end at 8pm. Please see the attachment for more details including the agenda and of course the menu. The photos on the front page are of the current class and some of the new activities they have been enjoying.
Please RSVP no later than May 16th for our 6th Alumni gathering.
Vickie French
Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

From Rowing Regatta to Celery Fields to Dragon Boats

Two days after the record-breaking attendance at the Benderson Park Rowing Regatta, the Celery Fields Grand Opening celebrated the culmination of years of hard work with a 5k run. Here was the scene before the ceremonies and race:



If you'd like to try yet another mode of racing, find out about the Dragon Boat Festival taking place at Benderson this Saturday, May 7th. It's free, and there's still time to join in.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Celery Fields Grand Opening, Tues. May 3

The Grand Opening of the Celery Fields is finally here. Come out and race on Tuesday. Click on the image to enlarge:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011



For Earth Day, a pointer to a decent article in Wikipedia about alternatives to fossil fuel. More clearly than ever, we see that there are ample sources of energy available to us - from sun, wind, water, algae, vanadium reflux batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and more. If we choose to pollute with a finite, increasingly expensive resource that has limitless political and economic implications, let's at least be clear that this is now a choice, and no longer a matter of necessity.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Pulitzer Earned and Deserved


When you read a story by Paige St. John, who has been unearthing reams of data about the insurance industry's dubious business practices in Florida, you realize you're in the presence of a journalist who's extremely smart, persevering, and who has thoroughly done her homework.

Congratulations to St. John and to the Herald Tribune for her Pulitzer.

If the paper can get over its justifiable glee, it should do a detailed overview showing what St. John's work has revealed, not simply about this specific industry, but about the context and environment in which big business is conducted in Florida. Here's a story by St. John from only a few days ago, showing how receptive the highest levels of state government to egregious ways the insurers have perfected of taking Floridians to the cleaners.

And the most important thing is, what's next. If the paper manages to hang on to this reporter, it should back broader and deeper investigations that will expose a climate of corrupt or non-existent regulation that the current crew in Tallahassee is happy to support and expand.

The recognition of Paige St. John's work is best honored in its continuation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

APRIL IS FAIR HOUSING MONTH


Sarasota, FL: To celebrate Fair Housing Month, Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota are announcing a community wide process to increase fair housing opportunity throughout Sarasota. Affirmatively furthering fair housing is a Federal requirement for counties and municipalities receiving affordable housing and community development block grant funding and an obligation of local governments.

The main tool that local governments use to enhance fair housing opportunity is fair housing planning. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that all communities that receiving Community Development Block Grants submit an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI). The AI requires extensive public outreach, an analysis of local government regulations and community housing patterns to define an action plan to increase fair housing education and opportunity. The plan will not only detail existing impediments to fair housing, but, most importantly, provide the community with specific strategies to improve fair housing opportunity.

Over the next nine months, the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD) will facilitate a public discussion on fair housing impediments and solutions in our community. The Office of Housing and Community Development is a joint City/County office that administers Federal and State affordable housing and community developments grants throughout Sarasota County.

The initial step to a full analysis is fair housing testing in our community. The results of these tests are then used as a baseline to determine types of fair housing training that should be offered to our community and how to best measure the long-term success of the training. The next fair housing training offered by the Office of Housing and Community Development will be in July 2011. The dates and locations of this training will be announced in the near future.

To learn more about the importance of fair housing opportunity in our community, please contact Debra Figueroa Debra. Community Development Manager,941-951-3640 ext. 3762

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Community Garden Open House in Englewood

"Gardening Together-Growing Community" Open House at Englewood Community Garden

As many enjoyed a session on community gardens in Civics 101, this news from the Friends of Englewood Community Gardensmight be of interest:
Everyone is invited to attend the "Gardening Together-Growing Community" Open House at the new Englewood Community Garden (ECG) on Tuesday, April 19th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The garden is located at Buchan Airport Community Park on Old Englewood Road next to the Englewood Center for Sustainability (EC4S) and will officially open for planting in October. At the Open House that evening, full or part time residents of Sarasota County will have the opportunity to reserve a small parcel of land, for a nominal fee, for use as a vegetable garden. Reservations are on a first come/first served basis and a check must be submitted to rent a parcel for the fall planting. At the Open House, representatives from the Sarasota County Extension Service, the EC4S, Elsie Quirk Library, Friends of Sarasota County Parks(FOSCP) as well organic gardeners Jocelyn Hoch and Forrest Shafer from The Open Studio, will be available to answer questions about the garden (ECG), organic gardening and gardening resources. Light refreshments will be served and door prizes awarded.

For more information contact the Englewood Garden Committee at englewoodcommunitygarden@gmail.com or call the Englewood CRA office at 941-473-9795.

Additional information about the garden can be found on the EC4S website.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sheriff Tom Knight Issues Annual Report for 2010

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has published its 2010 Annual Report. The publication, available in print and online, recognizes agency-wide milestones and achievements in 2010, Sheriff Tom Knight’s second year in office.

In addition to providing an overview of crime statistics, the annual budget and accreditation, the annual report provides insight into the people that propel the agency forward and their professional achievements. More...

Click on the link above to view the report as a .pdf file.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Water is not everywhere


A significant element of what we covered in Civics 101 had to do with resources and the husbanding thereof. The costs and energy associated with getting water to our sinks and dish washers were noted and notable.

Fresh Air's Terry Gross interviews a water expert here:

Currently, one out of six gallons of water acquired, treated and pumped by water utilities in the U.S. leaks back into the ground before it can be used by a home or business. This, says Charles Fishman in his new book, The Big Thirst, will change — but only if technology at water utility companies starts to improve.


"The average U.S. home pays an average of $34 a month. So our always-on, unlimited, almost universally reliably safe water costs us about $1 a day. Our water bill is less than half what our cable TV bill or our cell phone bill is. So cities are starved for financial resources and water utilities are often in terrible shape. In Philadelphia, there are 3,300 miles of water mains in the city, and they replace 20 miles a year. They're on 160-year replacement cycles. One of the officials from the Philadelphia water utility said to me, 'We want to make sure we get the 20 miles right.' That's not a question of money, it's a question of public resistance to digging up streets."

Conserving space and energy via smart grid tech

Recently a hot topic: Smart Grids - using energy with intelligence - storing and conserving it, "banking" it, instead of sending excess supplies into the ground, as seems to be the current practice.

Recently a New York architect offered an example of the kind of thinking that goes this way:
New York City has a lot of kids and precious few places where they can play outdoors and actually be kids (unless they're in private school!). New York architect Andrew Burdick's solution: Instead of building new fields, which would sap major time and money, extend the number of hours existing ones can be used.
To do that, Burdick, a finalist in the Philips Livable Cities Awardsand a staffer at Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership), proposes throwing up “smart-grid” solar- and wind-powered LED lights that'd allow kids and recreational sports teams to play in a safely lit space well into the night.. . .
Most field lights are huge purse and energy drains, so cities have little incentive to switch them on past dusk. Burdick's antenna-like fixtures include wind turbines and solar arrays that would feed energy to the grid during the day. At night, the fixtures would draw power directly from the grid, but because they're LEDs, they'd suck less juice than your average field light (often metal halide). All told, Burdick reckons that the lights would generate more power than they consume, resulting in a net gain for the city.
More.

Monday, April 4, 2011

County ranked #4 in State for Health

CaduceusReport released on Sarasota County health ranking

Sarasota ranked fourth of the 67 counties in Florida, in overall rankings. Collier was #1, followed by Seminole and St. Johns.


From the report:
We examine mortality (or death) data to find out how long people live. More specifically, we measure what are known as premature deaths (deaths before age 75).

Morbidity is the term that refers to how healthy people feel while alive. Specifically, we report on the measures of their health-related quality of life (their overall health, their physical health, their mental health) and we also look at birth outcomes (in this case, babies born with a low birthweight).
Overall Florida State Map here. More about the approach here.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin released the 2011 County Health Ranking report. The first report that ranks counties nationwide on health outcomes and health behaviors was published last year. This year's report is available for viewing on www.countyhealthrankings.org. (MORE)


Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Role for Civics in future projections

What is the role of civics in a scenario like that painted by Richard Florida? He has a new book, called The Great Reset:

In The Great Reset, bestselling author and economic development expert Richard Florida provides an engaging and sweeping examination of these previous economic epochs, or “resets.” . . . Florida identifies the patterns that will drive the next Great Reset and transform virtually every aspect of our lives—from how and where we live, to how we work, to how we invest in individuals and infrastructure, to how we shape our cities and regions. Florida shows how these forces, when combined, will spur a fresh era of growth and prosperity, define a new geography of progress, and create surprising opportunities for all of us. Among these forces will be

  • new patterns of consumption, and new attitudes toward ownership that are less centered on houses and cars
  • the transformation of millions of service jobs into middle class careers that engage workers as a source of innovation
  • new forms of infrastructure that speed the movement of people, goods, and ideas
  • a radically altered and much denser economic landscape organized around “megaregions” that will drive the development of new industries, new jobs, and a whole new way of life More here...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Antidote to Gerrymandering


New software is enlarging citizen involvement in redistricting, according to an article in today's USA Today:

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Political science professor Chad Murphy often sees senior Mike Kappert wandering around the University of Mary Washington campus with his laptop open and a map of Virginia state Senate districts up in his Web browser.

Kappert, working around the clock to meet a tight deadline, is using new software to draw an updated Senate district map — one he hopes will win his team a $2,000 top prize in a statewide competition when the winning maps are announced Tuesday. More important, he hopes the Virginia Legislature will consider his map as it adjusts political boundaries to the 2010 Census.

Across the USA, college students, citizen activists and political junkies are using similar software to break a mapmaking monopoly held for decades by state lawmakers.

"The technology has evolved so much that it's become almost entirely democratized," says Bob Holsworth, chairman of Virginia's bipartisan redistricting commission. "This will be a fact of political life from now on."

One of the new programs is described on Public Mapping Project from George Mason University.

See also:



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Florida reference for nuclear emergency preparedness


Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program

Florida is home to five commercial nuclear reactors located at three sites. Two additional reactors are located in Alabama near the State line.

  • Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant (NW of CR)
  • St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant (SE of FT. Pierce)
  • Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant ( S of Miami)
  • Farley Nuclear Power Plant (SE of Dothan, Alabama)

Plant Status Report - current operational status of commercial nuclear power plants.

Daily Events Report - current events reported to the NRC Operations Center by NRC licensees .

The Division of Emergency Management, has the overall responsibility for coordination of the response to a nuclear power plant emergency by federal, state and local agencies. The Division also has the overall authority and responsibility for updating and coordinating the plans with other response organizations.

Much more here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Barbara Ford-Coates' Presentation



Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates's presentation on taxation and government history is one of the most popular and frequently requested. Here's her bio, and her presentation can be downloaded here.

Sarasota Clerk of the Court in Image and Text






Karen E. Rushing wears several hats, as members of the Civics 101 come to learn.

Here is her Annual Report as Sarasota County's Clerk of the Court. Here's a link to an attractive online presentation of the report.

The Clerk's Web site is here.






An update from Alicia Accardi of the Clerk's Office:
"Since it’s Sunshine Week: Here is a link to the Clerks in the Sunshine section of our website.

Here is a link to the Performance Measures area, which lists fiscal management reports, timeliness reporting, out Annual Report and the Balanced Scorecard that we use to keep on task throughout the year."
~~~~~~~

The History of the Courthouse - (click to enlarge):






(Images and report courtesy of the Clerk of the Court).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Celery Fields set to open next month


From Community Connections, Sarasota County's Newsletter:

Why are there no trees on the new hill in the Celery Fields?

CeleryFieldsHillThe new hill in the Celery Fields regional stormwater facility, east of Interstate 75, was built from excavating stormwater retention ponds. The "recycled" soil was transported across Palmer Boulevard and used to create the large hill. Some trees will be planted on the top soon. However, the construction contract warranty calls for no holes to be dug in the hillsides for one year because it could lead to erosion.

Residents will be able to soon enjoy the new 12-foot-wide paths for running or walking up and down the hill -- and the separate trails for bicycles -- as soon as the facility is open to the public. The ribbon cutting is planned for April 19 at 5:30 p.m., with a family fun walk and 5K run following the ceremony.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome Class of Spring 2011

The class of Fall 2010 (if I may presume to speak for them here) welcomes the class of Spring 2011 to Sarasota Civics 101. Through the grapevine, we hear there's been a modification to the course syllabus - instead of a tour of the County's Health Dept. (which is closed at night), the class will hear a lecture about the escalating use and abuse of Oxycodone - a topic highly relevant to Florida just now.

Here's hoping your voyage will be as memorable as ours was.




Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is there such a thing as a civic quotient?


Among the books mentioned during Civics 101 was Bowling Alone, an influential documentation of the increasing fragmentation and isolation of modern US living.

How social is our society? Are there metrics that we can apply, or must we rely on anecdotal evidence? Clearly there are different intensities of sociability in different communities. In mine, which has 1,600 homes, we have one organization that attracts a small fraction of the residents to meetings.

Here's a bit of random evidence that I found startling -- from a discussion about "Creating Healthy, Livable Cities" on LinkedIn, from Han Blok, a contributor based in The Netherlands:

Citizens are in general too lonesome and too individualistic. My village has 650 houses and we have 50 active social associations (culture, hobby, sport etc) all associations run by volunteers. many similar villages are present at 5 km distance. The houses and streets are not the core of the structure but the integrated social structure is the essence. Such social cores could also be achieved in neighboorhoods or quarters of larger cities. It requires thinking about social behaviour not calculating the supporting force of a concrete construction. A 20 store city building may house the same number of living units without any social coherence and most people there feel lonesome.
What are the drivers behind this level of intense volunteerism and social creativity? Does it help to ask: which is a more telling metric of "civicness": Geoffrey West's model of cities as supercenters of creativity, or a metric that compares things like civic participation?