An active citizenry makes things happen

November 17, 2012

Problems do not fix themselves. When there’s a knocking sound coming from the engine of your car, or when the transmission begins to slip, something must be done. Ignoring these symptoms will have consequences.

When a city loses population and can no longer afford to maintain infrastructure or provide essential services; when its downtown stores are abandoned by merchants who move to malls and shopping centers with free parking; when litter accumulates in gutters, sidewalks are unswept and walls are defaced by graffiti; when residents are afraid to walk the streets at night, something is broken.

These problems will not fix themselves. People must fix them, and in the case of Washington, those people may come from the Civic Leadership Institute.

The institute was formed about a year ago as a collaboration among the city, East Washington Borough and Washington & Jefferson College and was paid for by a grant from the Benedum Foundation. The goal of the institute is to create a network of leaders who can act together to make progress toward a better community.

For too many years, the two municipalities and the college acted in their own interests, and not those of Greater Washington. And so much has changed in that time. The city’s population has declined 10,000 from its peak a half-century ago, while during the same period the college has doubled in size. The city, borough and college have grown dependent upon each other, and finally administrators and elected officials have come to realize the benefits of cooperation in planning and development. But they can’t fix these problems on their own. They need the support of the citizenry, and that’s where the Civic Leadership Institute comes in.

A meeting of the institute earlier this month drew 100 people to the college to identify the problems and find volunteers and organizations willing to resolve them.

The greater Washington area could benefit greatly from the energy boom and this county’s industrial growth, but that won’t happen automatically. People will have to do it, and we have those people right here.



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