Friday, January 25, 2008

Thought for the Day

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Youth Council Vision

January is marching on, but I'm still not ready to articulate goals for 2008. I share instead the vision of the various members of the American Fork City Youth Council.

At the urging of now-Youth Council Mayor Evan Nuttall, the City has refreshed the group's charter and appointed a dynamic set of youth to serve. The youth will form a shadow government whose goals include service to the community, youth leadership development, local government experience and increased communication between youth and adults in the American Fork community. (Read all about it in the January 17 Daily Herald.)

These kids, Council Member LeBaron says, are a "highly energetic group of high school students wanting to make a difference in their community." I can attest to that. Already, one of their number has served the City on a selection committee to pick the designers of the City's new Web site. But the kids' goals -- the goals they listed in their applications -- these goals really speak about their intelligence and insight into leadership.

It's not just that they understand the community, but that they get it about making a difference as youth. As you read these goals, see how well-matched they are to both the energies and the limitations of youth.

  • Clean up skate park and help maintain it.
  • Utilize City parks more. Hold activities, sports, and games in parks. Involve youth in clean-up and beautification projects.

  • Finish sidewalks by schools and and on streets around schools. Hold fundraiser to build new sidewalks in areas that have none.

  • Increase community and teen awareness of City events and activities to increase participation.

  • Teach youth how to be involved in their current and future communities. Provide opportunities for community involvement and service.
  • Hold a book drive.

  • Hold a community talent show, with student performers, to raise money for charity.

  • Raise political awareness of teens. Teach voter registration and other concepts.

  • Learn about City planning, water shares, etc.

  • Partner with the National Honor Society on service projects. The National Honor Society has more members than service opportunities.

  • Create opportunities for youth to serve at the Senior Center.

  • Figure out how to do something with the old abandoned school [the Harrington] and save some of our history.
I'm interested to see which projects they choose and eager to watch their success. One thing's certain: If our future is in the hands of leaders like these, then we're in good shape.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Reporting on 2007

It's January, and time to state goals for the coming year. This I shall do---later. First, however, I need to account for last year's goals.

I articulated my 2007 goals last January, then reported progress in June. Here's where they stand today:

1. Support the Mayor's outlined objectives: Secondary irrigation is well underway and the sensitive lands ordinance was adopted. Transportation initiatives, downtown revitalization, and broadband transitioning are still in progress.

2. Become a Tree City, USA. The requirements were met and the application submitted. See my blog entries here, here, and here.

3. Upgrade the Arts Council by-laws. New by-laws were adopted in August and a governing board was appointed in November. More here, here, and here.

4. Establish a partnership with The Music School to stabilize Concerts in the Park. This was a successful partnership. May the 2008 series be equally successful.

5. Inventory the library's holdings. Here I did not succeed. The Library's Collection Development Policy, adopted in 2007, contains this statement:
As the American Fork community grows rapidly, the ability to assess and meet the informational and recreational reading needs of the community is critical to providing the quality library services and collections that are expected by our citizens.
I had envisioned an assessment tool to allow us to list, for each decade of the Dewey decimal system, the strengths and weaknesses of our collection. The librarians, however, have persuaded me that library science does not include such precise measurement techniques. How exactly do we establish what the core collection should be for, say, Dewey decimal number 730, plastic arts?

When at first you don't succeed, reevaluate. With or without an assessment tool, two essential facts remain: Our collection is significantly outdated, and our collection budget figures at one-third to one-half that of comparable libraries. Needless to say, a new goal for addressing the problem will appear on my list for 2008.

6. Establish strong public communications policies and procedures. January's water bill included a redesign of the newsletter that I can live with. Next up: the City Web site.

7. Create a mission statement for Economic Development. Done. See post here.

8. Install and repair sidewalks in the Shelley School Area. See post, here. This is still under design. The wheels of government, especially federal government, turn much too slowly for my liking.

9. Finally finish the parks bond by installing curb and gutter at Art Dye. This is still not finished, and I'm fit to be tied. Why such delays, you ask? The short answer is: Red tape. This one goes back on the list for 2008.

10. Do all the above with no tax increases. Yes, we made it through 2007 with no tax increases. I dislike paying my taxes as much as anybody -- but we're not likely to make more progress on arts, parks, or the library without raising dedicated revenues for these causes. This is why the Council is considering asking the voters in 2008 for a RAP tax or a library tax. Or some combination of both. For further information, read Caleb Warnock's article in Friday's Daily Herald.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thought for the Day

If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.

Pearl S. Buck

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.

Stacia Tauscher

Letter to a Constituent

I wrote this letter today at the request of a consituent who will be lunching with some of Utah's high-profile leaders tomorrow. Their object: to stop the spread of pornography. I hope the topic will also be of interest to readers here at the blog.

Dear Anonymous:

You asked whether American Fork has any programs in place to combat the spread of pornography. Let me answer by explaining the City's two lines of defense against this ill. The first is direct; the second is indirect.

Directly, the current City Council has done three things to limit the spread of pornography. First, working in conjunction with a non-profit group called Cities for Familes, we passed a resolution last September promoting child-appropriate standards within the City. This resolution is crafted to protect the City against first amendment challenges by encouraging, but not requiring, businesses to adopt child-appropriate standards for media on display. We felt this an appropriate step to take in a community where thirty-five percent of the population is under the age of thirty-five. Second, we passed an ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses. First amendment rights do not allow us to prohibit sexually oriented businesses, but the regulations provided by this ordinance are so stringent as to deter such businesses from locating in our community. The third action is still in process. We have directed the Planning Commission to create a zone for the placement of sexually oriented businesses. When the zone is in place, sexually oriented businesses will not be able to locate anywhere in our community except within this zone. The Planning Commission is searching for a location that will be remote from schools, churches, and family-centered commercial activity. In most communities, the creation of this zone creates a powerful deterrent to sexually oriented businesses.

The second approach the City takes to address this problem is less direct, but more proactive. Our community values hold the family in great esteem as the primary defense against social ills. American Fork offers many programs that support the family by providing wholesome recreational, educational and cultural opportunities. These include everything from parks and recreation to arts, library and literacy programs. Youth are welcomed and encouraged to participate in our community choirs and art shows, our sports and recreation programs, our speech and essay contests, our library's "Teen Thing," and in our Youth Council. Taken as a whole, these programs raise the quality of life in American Fork and promote a sense of community and stability. My personal observation has been that, as these programs have grown in vitality, families have been willing to stay longer and provide more leadership in our community, rather than move away to other cities.

I hope this answers your question. Thank you for your concern about pornography and your willingness to DO something to combat it.

Sincerely yours,

Heidi Rodeback