Things are changing around Park City and the citizen is at its heart. Across the city and basin, citizen groups are popping up. Citizens for Better Education successfully challenged the school board’s bond. Save People Save Wildlife is a Facebook community dedicated to getting wildlife fencing throughout the city. A resident from Jeremy Ranch, Alex Brown, has started a campaign to remove fees associated with busing kids who live “too close” to schools (and also get more kids on buses). Resident, Jennifer Terry, has long been fighting for a passage way across I-80 between the Pinebrook and Jeremy Ranch side, and recently her efforts have led to a small victory with a raised sidewalk being constructed under I-80. I’m sure there are more efforts under way that I’m not aware of.
While there have been citizens groups in the past like CAGE (Citizens for the Alignment of Growth and Environment) in the mid 2000’s and Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth in the 1990’s, the rise of these new groups represents a new phase in public engagement. Using tools like Facebook, Nextdoor.com, and email lists these groups are impacting local politics through alerting citizens to issues that may concern them. Because these efforts are both local and online, it enables these groups to build large followings that attend meetings, vote in elections, and educate public officials on their positions. They are also succeeding in disrupting the status quo.
With the recent successes, we shouldn’t be surprised if even more groups appear over the next few years. Their strategy is almost perfect. Issues come to the forefront that they care deeply about it. Social media is used to find like minded people and educate others. They then band together to try and influence political bodies toward their goals. If that doesn’t work, they don’t mind fighting in the court of public opinion during an election.
While power still does truly reside in our elected officials, the city and county governments, and local boards, the citizens impact is truly being felt. While I’m sure that none of us agree with every effort being lodged, it’s great to have such a diverse group of people, that may not have been involved in local government before, getting involved. Even more, it’s great that they are seeing success. This will likely ensure that they will keep involved.