The Mayor’s office has issued this press release:
Mayor Announces Second Run of Northampton cityschoolMayor Higgins announced today the launch of the second session of Northampton cityschool, a ten-week program designed to introduce citizens to the workings of their City government. The goals are to encourage participation in the electoral and political process, to increase public understanding of the roles and responsibilities of various city departments, boards and commissions, to build awareness of volunteer opportunities within the city, and to provide opportunities for public employees and members of the community to share information.
Contact: Mayor’s Office, 587-1249
The City of Northampton has received many accolades. Visitors and residents alike express an abiding love for this City. With that affection comes a feeling of responsibility and stewardship. “We have seen a groundswell of citizen and neighborhood groups starting up and thriving in recent years,” Mayor Higgins noted. “I think there’s a broad understanding that to effectively care for our community, we need a broad base of citizens who understand and monitor the workings of City government, who participate in any number of ways to maintain and improve the quality of life we all share.”
The first session of cityschool, a multi-faceted, ten-week exploration of how Northampton works, culminated in January 2009. Twenty Northampton residents from all walks of life had the chance to meet the people who are elected, appointed and hired to work on their behalf. They learned about the local, state and federal laws and regulations which define the work of many of our departments. Representatives from various City departments and volunteer boards spoke about their mission and the ways that members of the community can be involved.
Cityschool represents a convergence of the dozens of City departments, boards and commissions for a single project. “Over the years, many of the calls coming into my office begin with the words, ‘I’m not sure who I should call about this, but…’ We’ve noticed a need for better communication about the role of government in our community, and how the two dozen or so city departments interact with one another,” said Mayor Higgins.
Cityschool classes will begin on January 20th 2010, and run through March 24th, meeting on Wednesday nights from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. Registration is open to any Northampton resident, and participants can sign up in the Mayor’s office. “Based on feedback and evaluations from the first cityschool, we decided to add one week and expand each week’s meeting time by one-half hour. Participants and presenters alike let us know they appreciated when they had more time to interact with each other, according to Mayor Higgins.
The first session of cityschool was comprised of residents from 17 to 70+ years of age. Participants shared an interest in public policy and the time to devote to this kind of endeavor. Several members of the first graduating class have gone on to participate in the city through membership on several boards and committees, and have been enthusiastic supporters of the cityschool program. Following last year’s session, several other communities in Massachusetts contacted the Mayor’s office for advice on setting up their own version of cityschool.
Residents who are interested in participating in cityschool should contact the Mayor’s Office to express their interest. The sessions will meet each Wednesday, and will be in various wheelchair accessible venues throughout the city. The class will be limited to approximately 20 participants in order to ensure that all participants can fully participate in the dialogue with city officials. Residents may sign up by calling the Mayor’s office, 587-1249, or by email at email@example.com.
Final Recommendations for Ensuring the Use of Locally and Nationally Accepted Best Practices in Northampton Decision-Making (PDF, presented to the Northampton City Council on 3/5/09)
…2. The City should assume an ongoing responsibility for explaining the detailed functions and processes of municipal government. Consider the following:
- Create a “Citizens Guide to Northampton City Government” summarizing key aspects of how our government is organized and the processes through which decisions are made. A separate citizen guide focusing specifically on development and zoning issues may also be considered.
- Continue and expand “cityschool” and consider a video version for a wider reach.
- Create a “public information” staff position with a mandate to inform and educate the public as early as possible about significant new initiatives or changes in policy or governance. This staff person could also run an ongoing “cityschool” program, help advertise board openings, manage the City’s web site, and staff a re-formed Citizens Advisory Committee (see Recommendation 8) or ongoing Best Practices Committee.
- Collaborate with neighborhood groups/associations to maximize education and communication.
- Provide a standard, comprehensive orientation and training for all committee appointees.
- Expand Northampton Community Television (NCTV) coverage of city government.
Gazette: “Residents get peek inside Northampton’s city hall” (10/13/08)
…includes presentations and give-and-take sessions with many of the 28 city department heads and leaders of dozens of volunteer committees, boards and commissions…
The Republican: “Program aims to ‘school’ public” (10/9/08)