- Thu, 08/11/2011 - 09:46
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Lakewood has been connecting community members and city government since 1954, when Lakewood incorporated as the nation’s first “contract city” and supplied all of its municipal services via contracting. The novelty of Lakewood’s approach to city government placed a new burden on city council members: Without a Lakewood-only police department, fire department, library, or school system, how would Lakewood residents develop a sense of community when many of the traditional symbols of cityhood were missing?
Civic identity and community building became hot-button issues in the mid-1970s, when a period of divisive politics focused on the concerns of some residents that their city council was out of touch with the community. In 1977, city council members acted decisively to restore the trust that some residents thought had been lost. In the process, council members hoped to build a new sense of community around city-sponsored programs and events designed specifically to highlight Lakewood’s neighborhoods and their quality of life.
They succeeded, leading to a period of extraordinary stability in civic affairs in Lakewood that has persisted for more than 30 years. Today, the city council’s goal is to sustain the high level of trust that exists among residents, the city council, and city staff members. (In a scientifically-valid telephone survey conducted in 2010, residents were asked their opinion of Lakewood. 97% rated their city “good” or “excellent” overall as a place to live. 78% gave the same “good” or “excellent” rankings to city government overall. These positive ratings have persisted with little change for more than 20 years.)
Lakewood celebrates and acknowledges the values and strengths of its neighborhoods in annual, city-sponsored events. Collectively, these bring well over 60,000 community members into contact with their neighbors. Lakewood uses cable TV and web technology to bring these events to residents in their home.
City-sponsored special events offer more than entertainment. They provide gateways to engagement in the civic life of Lakewood. Although events may not delve into public policy issues directly, community events bring together residents, city staff members, and members of the city council in settings that encourage access, dialog, and the sharing of information.
Among the events that aim at community and trust building are the following:
- Lakewood Celebrates is a series of informal receptions held before city council meetings six times a year. The Lakewood Celebrates format brings residents and city officials together in an informal setting to honor award recipients, meet new service providers, and learn about the programs provided by public agencies. These receptions are taped and later cablecast by CityTV.
- Lakewood Award of Valor honors deputies, fire fighters, paramedics, and residents for heroism and devotion to duty.
- Project Shepherd brings community organizations, scout troups, churches and city volunteers together to provide assistance to families in need during the holiday season and throughout the year.
- State of the City and Business Forecast luncheons are related programs focusing on community issues and the outlook for the local economy.
- Lakewood Youth Hall of Fame honors outstanding young athletes.
- The Lakewood Beautiful Home Awards honors homeowners for outstanding property maintenance.
- Memorial Day brings city council members and Lakewood’s veteran organizations to Del Valle Park to commemorate the service of past and current members of the armed forces.
- Lakewood Civic Center Block Party provides a fun-filled afternoon of activities, and evening concert, along with the Taste of Lakewood (a fundraiser for the Friends of the Lakewood Libraries).
- Patriot Day Concert memorializes the events of 9/11/2001 at a local park.
- Earth Walk is an annual “eco-fair” and educational experience for Lakewood families at Monte Verde Park.
- Concerts in the Park is a summer musical series sponsored by Lakewood-area businesses.
Most of these events are cablecast to cable TV subscribers by CityTV, the city’s video production unit. CityTV has produced well over a two thousand cable programs since the start of regular cablecasting in 1984.
Today, Lakewood’s cable channel is programmed – and streamed on the web – around-the-clock and seven days a week. The core of CityTV’s program lineup includes special events, park sports coverage, historical retrospectives, and even a cooking program.
CityTV has been honored more than 200 times by local and national organizations since 1984 for the excellence of its programs and their innovative approaches to showing residents of Lakewood how their neighborhood values are shared by their city’s leaders.