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11:31 PM Thu, Sept. 20th

Column: Putting public back in public service

There is a group trying to find and to help the best candidates to run for Prescott City Council. It's called the Good Governance Committee, and it is the latest incarnation of something that has existed off and on over the years. This group in the process of putting out a press release and contacting media, including this paper, so I won't go into all the details since more of that will be in news coverage. Here, I'll give some other aspects.

Previous incarnations of Good Governance were called Good Government. In talking with Mayor Kuykendall, he gave me some background. It was originally created in the '70s by he and some others to get a slate of businesspeople on the council, and they were successful. The organization came and went, formed by various people with variations in what kinds of policies they were hoping to promote, but always with the aim of both having good people on council and of education. The educating part is for both candidates and the public. This entails educating potential candidates and winning candidates in how to be effective on council, about the city charter, and about what the responsibilities and limitations of council are. This also involves educating interested members of the public in the same way and on how they can be effectively involved members of the public.

The current incarnation was started by Elisabeth Ruffner and some others and is called Good Governance to further emphasize the education and public involvement aspects. Over the last couple of years they've had a series of talks and workshops, inviting speakers including officials in office and others with expertise in various aspects of city governance. Some speakers were locals, some from Phoenix and Tucson. The talks were open to anyone interested, both to educate and encourage potential future candidates, and to help the public be involved in their city's government.

They hope to end up with candidates to run for the council positions in the election later this year. Rather than having a small group determine the criteria they would use to select candidates to endorse, with some push from the younger people who've been involved, they chose to do surveys all over the city to find out what citizens want from their candidates, and they'll use that as their guideline.

This is one piece where you might choose to get involved. They are having house parties where a group gets together and brainstorms what they hope to see for Prescott in the next few years, what characteristics are required in members of council, and what policies that would suggest. You can host a party yourself, or let them know you want to be a part of one of these parties. They've already held ones in various areas, the Dexter neighborhood, the Hassayampa development, Samaritan Village, the Chamber of Commerce's Prescott Area Young Professionals group, and many others. They will be doing more and especially hope to get more young people in the mix.

Both within their group, and in the people they've had at these survey parties, they've had quite a cross-spectrum of positions. They will boil this down and choose candidates to endorse. That's another way you can get involved. If you're interested in knowing what it takes to be a candidate, what being on council really means, or just interested in supporting the candidacy of others, contact the group.

One thing potential candidates need to consider is the cost in time and money. Over the time of interacting with members of council, I've seen how when they're serious about learning a new topic or tackling a project they can end up putting in the equivalent of a full-time job, even while some have to continue making a living. The pay for a council member, spread out over that many hours, probably doesn't work out to minimum wage. For a council member to really benefit the city, it takes real dedication.

Once they've chosen the endorsements, the education and involvement of the group continues. They will have experts in various fields educate the candidates further. Members of the group will form committees to help with fundraising, signature gathering, and the like.

Despite the fact that it could lead to someone running against him, Kuyendall is very supportive. The educating of the public and educating of potential candidates he finds to be good goals. He even offered to speak to their group about the role of mayor. His suggestion to people interested in being involved in city government is to look into the roles in which citizens can take part. There are official roles like being on the Board of Adjustments, and various less formal roles that come up, like a group of volunteers on a committee to better clean up Watson Lake. He says that's a great way to begin to learn how city government operates, that and studying the city charter.

Time is short. If you're interested, get involved. They ask people to contact them at goodgovp@gmail.com (short for Good Government Prescott).

Tom Cantlon is a longtime local resident, business owner and writer. Contact him at TomCantlon@TomCantlon.com.