City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said in his state of the City speech: "We are launching several initiatives in an effort to encourage citizens to be more engaged in their city government. Those include the following:"
1. COSA University will be a citizens academy that we hope will spark interest in serving on City boards and commissions. If you’re already interested, applications are available at cosatx.us/boards.
There are at least four people who applied for the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee that got no response at all from city staff. All four are leaders with local organizations caring for animals and their welfare. They donate their time and considerable resources to caring for animals, often discarded or in line for extermination.
2. Citizens 101 will be a monthly evening session at which folks can learn about specific programs, tools and resources that will help them build a more positive, sustainable community.
There are many people working toward that more positive, sustainable community for local animals. They do so on a volunteer basis with personal resources. The city has targeted a number of these people with aggressive, heavy handed enforcement actions. In the animal service arena the city has worked against building a more positive, sustainable community.
Local nonprofits repeatedly offered to pay for city staff to attend workshops on animal services topics. Their generosity has been rebuffed. A recent attendee at a seminar stated, "We are five years behind everyone else." If city staff refuse to learn best practices from other communities, how are they in position to teach?
3. And Lunch and Learn will be a monthly session to provide information about specific City services and regulations to targeted industry professionals.
Regulation enforcement has been the city's modus operandi in animal services. There is no partnering. As a result the City and local nonprofits will continue to miss out on significant grant opportunities to deal with local animal concerns.
For significant change to happen city staff has to listen. That hasn't happened in the animal service arena and it won't if staff call all the shots, including who gets appointed to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.
Update 8-23-14: PIO Anthony Wilson had this to say about COSA University. "What this is meant to do, hopefully is to accomplish two things. The first is we're hoping to create a training ground for prospective board members for our nineteen city boards and commissions. Of course you guys know we're always in need of volunteers to serve on those boards and we think this may be a springboard into that type of service. The second thing we hope to do is cultivate some well informed community ambassadors for municipal government. What we mean by that is we want some folks out there in the community who are well informed on what we do and how we do it and the method to our madness." So when they get questions, or there's discussion in the coffee shops, the workplace or whereever, they can help educate or inform their neighbors, friends, family or coworkers about why it is the city does what it does and how it does what it does."