As we watch the dysfunction of our national government, where just keeping the doors open seems like an accomplishment, it is tempting to simply point fingers and express frustration. But as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
In Newark, the leaders and residents alike are living Roosevelt’s words, putting in place a foundation that empowers citizens to drive their government from the bottom up. All Newark residents now have the opportunity to learn how to be No-Blame problem-solvers, exercising their full political power to leave their city better than they found it.
Recognizing this hopeful reality that he has helped bring about, Mayor Ras Baraka joined members of the Newark Civic Trust, the superintendent of the Newark School District, and the Vice-Chancellor of Rutgers Newark, as Newark became the first Civic City in the nation.
A Civic City is one that creates a pipeline of practical solutions and principled leaders. In a Civic City, all citizens have access to training in the practice of No-Blame problem-solving and the opportunity to serve as Civic Trustees working to find successful urban solutions which they adapt for adoption in their city.
What it entails
The main components of Newark, The Civic City are:
“At the heart of Civic Cities is the recognition that we are intrinsic and moral neighbors who must continually and steadily be learning how to move from difficult dialogues, to community mobilizing, to experiencing real victories and then to empowerment,” said Marcia Brown, Vice Chancellor of Rutgers-Newark.
Drawing on Newark’s examples, Civic Cities are in various stages of formation in Trenton, Plainfield, Perth Amboy, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. Miami, Oakland, Toledo and Yonkers are among the cities where activities are slated to get underway later this year. But it is Newark that set the standard. As the pioneering Civic City, Newark is setting an example for the nation, leading the way to the national civic revival needed to build a 21st century democracy from the bottom up.