A new Arlington group is reaching out to all town residents, aiming to engage them in local issues. The first official meeting of the new Envision Arlington Civic Engagement Group (CEG) was held Wednesday, Sept. 29.
For the new group, the key word is "civic," which implies "civil," a term that reverberates via politics nationwide.
Precinct 15 Town Meeting member Greg Christiana is launching the group, and YourArlington asked him why.
"I'm starting this group mainly for two reasons," he wrote in response. "First, I want the future of Arlington to be guided by the voices and preferences of Arlingtonians, with all the dimensions of our diversity well represented, and for those preferences to be well informed. A big piece of this is that we need to do a better job at outreach to bring more underrepresented voices into the conversation, and earlier.
"Second, there are many forces pulling the social fabric of our town (and our country) apart, and I want to see us reverse that trend.
"I think it's too hard for us to wrap our heads around how to address the divisiveness of the country as a whole, but we can make tangible progress on local issues in our town, where we have much greater agency. I believe an important way forward is for us to build stronger relationships within the community on issues that are important to us in ways that are inclusive and productive."
Asked about his background to pursue such an effort, he wrote: "I first became involved in local issues in Arlington when I learned about crowded classrooms at my kids' elementary school several years ago. I spoke with other concerned parents at the Bishop School, and I formed the Bishop Enrollment Group to organize our efforts.
"I then connected with concerned parents who were organizing at other public schools in town, and I joined the steering committee of the School Enrollment Parent Group. I've been serving on Town Meeting since 2016. For the past few years I've been serving on the Envision Arlington Standing Committee, most recently as co-chair. I'm stepping down as co-chair so that I can focus my efforts on organizing CEG.
"Outside of local advocacy and organizing, I've had several one-on-one conversations in recent years with leaders of organizations that promote deliberative democracy, such as Better Angels (now Braver Angels) and Living Room Conversations. And the conclusion I've come to is that the most impact I can have to improve the quality of our democracy is to focus locally within our town."
Hopes for group?
Asked what he hope the group will achieve, he responded:
"Short term, I hope to bring a more diverse and representative set of voices and perspectives into conversations about the most important issues facing our town, not just the most privileged or the loudest, and to ensure that those diverse voices are reaching town leaders so they can better understand what's most important to our residents.
"Long term, I'd like to see Arlington become a model for how to reverse the concerning trends we've seen nationally by increasing trust in local government and decreasing the hostility and contempt in our politics so that we can better focus our energies on building a future that's more inclusive and equitable."
Christiana moved to Arlington with his family nine years ago. He is a software engineer, working on large-scale distributed systems.
For more about the group, click here >>
This news announcement, which includes opinion, was published Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.