This week, I attended this week's Outeach meeting on Civic Participation, convened at Pima Community College's Community Campus. In the past, I have had my concerns about the Arizona Town Hall process because, since I first encountered them in the 1980s, they were marketed not to the general public but to the elected and appointed officials and required hefty membership fees to participate. They are now open to everyone, but the hefty participation fee to the actual 3 1/2 dayTown Halls still applies. However, there is growing institutional support, through donors such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, to proved scholarships for participation and, in the past years, separate one day youth town halls have been convened. Thus, I can report the opportunities to participate in the Arizona Town Hall are expanding.
The event this week had no fee but the participation was still (by my eyes' observation) mostly attended by people (like me), over the age of 50 and Caucasian. I could count the number of 20-40 something participants on one hand and the number of non-Caucasian on the other. But, progress in participation comes slowly, and I am hopeful the new directions for more open and diverse public participation at the Arizona Town Halls will continue. The fall Town Hall will be on Civic Leadership and so the link I am sharing to the summary of three Southern Arizona communities on the Spring 2012 topic of Civic Participation serves as an important foundation for the Fall event. While my business and personal budget will prohibit my participation in the Fall, I hope to attend the open-to-all luncheon (with a Talking Stick Resort lunch fee). This luncheon will be honoring former Rep. Gabby Giffords and will be a "BrightSpot" in the dubious Fall election season. I encourage others to follow the outcomes of these important community forums, convened by the Arizona Town Hall.