Civic Conversations – CivicCon
Great cities begin with great dialogue. Based on that cornerstone, the goal of CivicCon has been to contribute to creation of an informed community that is engaged in civic conversations.
The result has been citizen-powered change in which civic engagement drives community development, progress and change, with elected officials following the will of educated and engaged citizens.
How It Began
Citizens often complain that government at all levels suffer from lack of transparency and does not eagerly seek public input regarding public policy, development and infrastructure projects. Conversely, governmental officials often feel that proper public notice is provided but, the public doesn’t get involved until the last moment. Solving this disconnect is the driving spirit behind CivicCon.
The Pensacola News Journal, in partnership with the Studer Community Institute, launched a year-long series of speaker events to address this problem. In the latter part of 2017 and throughout 2018, the CivicCon
speaker series brought in the nation’s leading thinkers and experts on a variety of topics, including fiscally-sound communities, getting parking right, social equality and diversity, infrastructure that connects, historic preservation, walkability as economic development and civic engagement.
This effort continued had great success – live audiences of 200 to 300 people and Livestream audiences topping 6,000. Volunteers and the resources of SCI and the Pensacola News Journal drove CivicCon. That community participation and enthusiasm by volunteers and attendees made it apparent that CivicCon had become an integral part of the community. So in early 2019, CivicCon Center was created with an executive director tasked with continuing the speaker series while adding courses on civic engagement and workshops to take on community issues.
By the end of 2019, CivicCon will have hosted 26 speaker events since the initial talk by Strong Towns Found Chuck Marohn in September of 2017. The 2020 CivicCon speaker lineup includes:
January 27: Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson and County Administrator Janice Gilley talk about priorities for 2020. The Saenger Theatre at 6 p.m.
May 4: Urban Planner Victor Dover does a virtual presentation on Zoom on what communities are doing to make progress on the affordable housing problem. The lecture is scheduled for 6 p.m. and registration on Eventbrite will provide a link to participate.
June 1: Arborist and City Planner Lysistrata "Lyssa" Hall will share best practices on tree strategies in communities in a virtual lecture on Zoom. The lecture is scheduled for 6 p.m. and registration on Eventbrite will provide a link to participate.
July 20: Dr. Bill Fisher, Environmental Protection Agency expert on estuary programs, will show what other communities are doing to work together to improve water quality in estuaries. This is a virtual lecture on Zoom. The lecture is scheduled for 6 p.m. and registration on Eventbrite will provide a link to participate.
August 17: Marianne Cusato, architect and on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, was the designer of the Katrina homes and will discuss small homes and tiny homes as another part of the strategy to provide affordable housing as part of existing neighborhoods. The lecture is scheduled for 6 p.m. and registration on Eventbrite will provide a link to participate.
October 19: Valerie Lemmie, research director at the Kettering Foundation, is tentatively scheduled as a live event at The Rex Theatre at 6 p.m. The Kettering Foundation is devoted to promoting effective democracy. She will talk about the importance of civic engagement for effective local government.
WATCH CIVICCON PAST SPEAKER EVENTS All past CivicCon speaker events can be viewed by going to www.pnj.com/civiccon