South Jordan University Promotes Civic Engagement
Jul 06, 2016 10:17AM ● Published by Sandra Osborn
South Jordan University Class of 2016:Julie Holbrook, Angie Kabat, Thomas Volt, Heather Volt, Carolyn Gunter, Kathy Lang, Coordinator Melinda Nagai Seager, Brooke Smith, Natalie Preece, Ted Neff, Katie Lindquist, Lisa Hunt, Carol Brown and Mayor Alvord. Not present: Patrick O’Shea, Melinda Nordahl, Ken Brown, Bill Lang, Lynette Doelling, Emily Goldman and Deanna Kaufman. –Sandra Osborn
By Sandra Osborn | firstname.lastname@example.org
South Jordan University graduated its 2016 class at the South Jordan City Council meeting on May 17.
The award-winning, intensive eight-week course offered an opportunity for interested community members to get insight on how the city operates. Participants learned how decisions are made, how city funds are allocated and how city departments operate together.
South Jordan University is open to all members of the community, age 16 and up, and runs every year in the spring. It’s free of charge but packed with information. City employees are encouraged to attend.
“The class helped me to understand how it is all connected,” Katie Lindquist, a class participant and Parks and Recreation employee, said. “I got to see how the office stuff affects what I do outside. You don’t get that bigger picture until you take the class.”
South Jordan University began in 2007 with the objective to involve and engage people in learning about the operation of city government. The effort aims to increase transparency and develop a true partnership between the city and its residents to address issues and strengthen community.
According to the Institute for Local Government (ILG), encouraging the public’s active engagement in the government’s decision-making process and supporting an ongoing exchange of information within communities helps protect them from abuse.
Authentic public engagement builds community ownership. Engaged citizens have higher rates of participation in civic duties and the engagement increases the likelihood that members of the public will hold local officials accountable for pursuing the public’s interests instead of their own, according to ILG.
In addition, a strong information infrastructure offers a two-way exchange. People involved in the city sometimes forget how unfamiliar government structure and processes can seem to the general public.
“Residents don’t fully understand city departments and their policies and procedures that have to be followed to make something happen,” said Brooke Smith, class participant and city employee in Economic Development and City Commerce Department.
“South Jordan University provides presenters an opportunity to see the residents’ perspective and hear their questions and concerns. We then can think about how to facilitate those concerns and make issues better,” Smith said.
“Every resident should take the class, but definitely every city employee should take the class,” Linquist said. “Especially city council members. They should take the class before they run.”
Each week, participants had the opportunity to explore the different departments that make the city run efficiently: from financing and budgeting, to planning and engineering, the Gale Center, city council and more.
“I was impressed to learn about services that the city offers that I was not aware of,” Natalie Preece, South Jordan resident and class participant, said.
“People enjoy living in South Jordan. We have a lot of services and opportunities, it’s clean and the city is beautiful,” Preece said. “We take for granted how many people do different jobs to create that environment.”
“I wish my kids could take the class so they would understand,” Preece said. “South Jordan is a really well managed city, I knew that. But now I know why.”
“We are having an election year, and you always hear people complain about government. If people really understood what’s going on, more people would vote and become involved,” Preece said.
“I love the city. I love working for it,” Lindquist said. “The more I know about it the more I feel like I am part of it. South Jordan is great. It is not perfect, but it’s great.”