BY ELI FRANK
The village will begin offering a six-week Citizens Academy program in January of 2017. The program is an attempt to engage 20 residents, prospective residents, business owners and/or prospective business owners in the workings of village government.
“The goal of the program is to establish an annual program that allows Shorewood residents and those individuals with an interest in Shorewood an opportunity to learn more about the community, so really I think this is a good citizen engagement practice that, as a village, we’re trying to use,” said Tyler Burkart, assistant village manager and the person who spearheaded the project. “The objective is to have a better understanding of your community and some of the services [offered].”
The idea evolved from a program that used to be offered by the police department: the Police Citizens Academy. That nine-week program was focused solely on the workings of the police department. The new citizens academy will be shorter and will cover a wider variety of topics.
“[Our] new police chief … was rethinking the Citizens Academy for police, and then started collaborating with the other department heads and they decided to just roll everything into one, so people would only need to make a six-week commitment and they could learn about everything that way,” said Ann McKaig, village trustee.
Burkart led a similar program at a previous job in Woodbury, Minn.
“Tyler could not be a better person to be doing this because he has the experience from another community,” McKaig said. “I did that for about three and a half years when I was up in Woodbury and it was very successful, so when I came here to Shorewood I … saw that this would be a pretty good t for Shorewood,” Burkart said.
The Shorewood Citizens Academy program will have six, two-hour sessions in January and February on Thursday nights.
The first session will be on Shorewood’s history and the structure of government and budgeting; the second session will focus on community service and volunteering and representation, with presentations from elected officials at the local, state and federal levels; the third session will be on public works, and will include a tour of the DPW facilities; following a one week break, the fourth session will focus on economic planning and development in the village; the fifth session will discuss learning and education at all levels, at the schools and at the senior resource center; and the final session, public safety, will include a tour of the police and re stations.
While the village trustees are united in their approval of the program, there are differences over videotaping the academy sessions.
According to McKaig, the board was deadlocked on an amended motion that made video recording of the academy sessions a condition of offering the program. Davida Amenta, village trustee, made a motion to offer the program without requiring video record- ing, but with an evaluation for the use of video after the first year of the program.
“After [the proposal for the academy] failed twice, if nothing was done, the entire program would’ve went away, so we all had to change our vote and give in in order for the program to move forward,” Rozek said. “Trustee Amenta put forward an amendment to — she re-amended her motion — so it would not just die, but it was a very, very disappointing day for me.”
Rozek believes that, for the cost of the program, it is not worth it to only offer it to 20 people.
“If this isn’t publicized to a wider audience, if we’re spending this much money for 20 people, which I think it’s a great pro- gram, and we’ re only reaching 20 people; as a fiscal conservative, I have a problem with that,” Rozek said. “When you’re faced with a tight budget, you have to pick your battles, so for me to support the program I really felt like if that much investment was going in, we should reach a wider audience without hindering the coziness of the seminar.”
“I do support making the information available with use of video as a medium … What I objected to was making videotaping a condition for approving the program,” McKaig said.
McKaig believes that it is important to get high quality video.
“My proposal was … run the program once, evaluate the use of video for making it more widely available and then making a separate proposal with a budget associated with it as far asa videographer and editing and how that would be handled and just having that be a separate decision, so I definitely agree that video is a great way for more people to get people involved and get exposed to the information, I just disagreed on how we were going about it.”
Rozek and Tammy Bockhorst, village trustee and chair of the community and business relations committee, where the program was introduced, disagreed.
“To have to pay a professional videographer … would be outrageously expensive,” Rozek said. “I think any videotaping … is better than none,” Bockhorst said. “I think this is a great service but the fact that we don’t broadcast it to a larger audience … is disappointing.”
“This first year, we won’t be doing the videotaping, but from feedback we receive from both the presenters and the participants we’ll get an idea of what the level of interest would be for future years, so I think that was a really good direction [by the village board],” Burkart said.
Applications will be accepted in mid-November.
“I think this is going to be a great t for Shorewood,” Burkart said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of benefit to this program and I’ m really excited for it to start.”
(Photo courtesy Village of Shorewood)