The turnout was good for the first meeting of a seven-week Citizens Academy. Thirty people showed up for the Feb. 3 kickoff of the second annual iteration of the program hosted by the City of Woodland Park.
The full house reflected the interest shown by the residents in the local government, despite a raging snowstorm going on that evening. There’s no cost to participate, but the participants must commit to the full seven weeks.
“Often citizens equate their needs and understanding of the federal government with that of their local government,” said Darrin Tangeman, Woodland Park city manager. “There is no government closer to the people than your local government”
Each local government is different, he said. “For instance, our city does not have a local fire department. The department was taken out of our service plan, so we have a separate fire district within the city.”
Tangeman emphasized that a republican form of government gives power to the people. “And the municipalities, along with the state, help devolve authority away from the federal government and keep power from becoming too concentrated in Washington, which limits government,” he said.
Among the powers that local governments have involve zoning laws, eminent domain for public uses with just compensation, law enforcement, election law, the issuing of permits and taxation.
Rather than a strong-mayor form of government, such as is in place in Colorado Springs, Woodland Park has a council/manager form of government, Tangeman said.
Woodland Park Mayor Neil Levy commented on the favorable turnout for the Citizens Academy. “It’s a privilege to be here because we have this kind of community where 30 people come to learn about their community,” he said. “I think it’s a rarity, so we appreciate your being here because it just makes us better.”
Throughout the initial meeting, from 5:30 to 9 p.m., the city staff talked about what they do and how their jobs relate to the lives of the residents.
Every week the academy will touch upon some facet of local government, including budget and finance scheduled for Feb. 10.
A bonus for the participating residents is a free meal, the first one a spaghetti dinner served by the Swiss Chalet restaurant.