COMMUNITY

A formula for awareness 

Knowledge helps us throughout our day and, depending on how much of it we have, it can greatly affect our course through life. Civic awareness and maintaining it represents a way to gain more knowledge that, when put into use, can change the direction or goals of a city. 

Knowledge related to civic awareness is important because it helps provide individuals with an understanding of what is needed to participate in their community as well as contributing towards a better, more diverse version of it.

There are a variety of ways to use knowledge to increase civic awareness and the benefit people receive from it, but here are some ideas that might help promote civic engagement. 

Promoting Education

Education is important when trying to increase civic awareness and engagement. It prepares individuals by giving them the information and skills critical to participating in their community and helps them gain the most from that participation. 

Promoting education via access to resources or community-led classes about important topics can help encourage more engagement as well as providing invaluable information on an important topic. 

In Keizer, a few classes are upcoming such as training for the city’s tree plotting inventory, a program that focuses on gathering data on the locations, species and number of trees in Keizer with goals to plant more in specific areas of the city.

Training for this program will be held at Keizer City Hall on May 4, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., with professionals from both the city and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) guiding attendees, according to an information flier from Keizer’s Environmental Education coordinator Jenny Ammon.

For those interested, a flier can be found in the written comments section of the Parks Advisory Board March 12 meeting or can reach out to Ammon at [email protected].

Another opportunity to increase individual knowledge about the city revolves around another upcoming event located at the Keizer Cultural Center. 

The event includes a guest speech from Dr. Russell Lo, a Ph.D., author and veteran who is speaking about his family and ascendant Hop Lee, who was an important member of the early Salem-Keizer community. 

The event is being held at the cultural center on April 5, at 6 p.m., according to vice-president of the Keizer Heritage Foundation Lore Christopher.

Clear and open communication 

Proper communication can make or break an effort to create more civic awareness and engagement. Encouraging open dialogue between citizens and members of government is important to both allow government officials to hear directly what they are being requested to do while also giving citizens an outlet to put forth requests. 

Having such forums of discussion often helps create meaningful discussions that allow people of different backgrounds and goals to come together and achieve consensus. 

One way to have more of a say in what goes on is the public comment. Before each city meeting, regardless of size, a section of time is dedicated to citizens who wish to make a public comment. 

Comments can come in spoken or written form and allow citizens the ability to often directly question city officials about something that concerns them. 

Citizens can make a public comment by coming into any city meeting and filling out a small information sheet. Written comments must be emailed to either Dawn Wilson or Melissa Bisset at  [email protected] and [email protected], respectively. 

Another way citizens can communicate their wishes is by going to the city website and taking the strategic draft plan survey

The survey gathers data on what people think about the proposed plan and goals as well as how those can be refined or added to. 

The plan attempts to lay out a plan for the next five years so many of the changes that are desired will be directly affecting the community soon. 

Civic Literacy 

Literacy of this kind refers to an understanding of the processes of how a government works, how to participate in city events as well as how policies that affect Keizer citizens are created. 

Promoting more civic literacy can help citizens become aware of what is happening in their community as well as encourage them to participate more in their community. 

A great resource for helping develop more civic literacy can be found by checking out the city council’s work session videos.

Oftentimes, the conversations that lead to policy creation require time and effort. A work session is a specific time where councilors and the public can come together to dive in-depth into a particular topic. The last work-type session was held on March 11, and revolved around the future of the Community Diversity Engagement Committee (CDEC). A video of the meeting can be found in the March 11 meeting minutes on Keizer.org.

The next Keizer City Council work session is on April 8 in the Keizer City Council chambers.

Another way to become more educated on how the city works is to check out either of the long range budget planning meetings held on both Feb. 12 and Feb. 26, with both meetings posted in the meeting minutes section of the city website. 

The long range budget meetings give an overview of the city’s finances and what its general plan is to manage revenues and expenditures which can help inform curious individuals about the financial health of the city. 

Advocacy and Activism 

Despite being more of a result of knowledge rather than a device to increase it, these concepts are nonetheless crucial to civic awareness. 

At its heart, these terms suggest that after someone gains knowledge about a particular issue, some may elect to take on ways to address that issue through trying to push for positive change, whatever that may be. 

A recent round of activism can be seen from the McNary Athletic Booster Club and its efforts to raise money for McNary students to be able to participate in school sports

With the school district facing down a $30 million budget shortfall, cuts to certain activities may soon come to pass. 

Seeing this issue, the booster club identified a need and has been working to address the issue. 

Last year they had up to 100 attendees at workouts with 94 students earning help for payment for their first school sport. 

The city also recently held a civic center clean-up that helped the Keizer community come together to clean-up the area but also develop stronger connections. 

Covered by the Keizertimes and organized by the Rotary Club of Keizer and the Claggett Creek Watershed Council, volunteers from local organizations, Rotarians and city leaders raked and gathered debris from landscape beds.

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

SUBSCRIBE TO GET KEIZER NEWS — We report on your community with care, depth, fairness, and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more