Five Communities Project

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The Center for the Future of Arizona has launched the Five Communities Project, an effort to help communities secure funding to implement their action plans in areas such as job creation, education, the environment and civic engagement. CFA Chairman and CEO Dr. Lattie Coor discusses the project’s goals.

Ted Simons: The center for the future of Arizona is looking for communities with bold new ideas to create jobs, educate the public, and make Arizona a better place to live. To that end the center recently launched the five communities project, an effort to help local communities of all kinds find the funding they need to achieve their goals. Here with more on the program is Dr. Lattie Coor, the president and CEO of the center for the future of Arizona. Nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Lattie Coor: Nice to see you, Ted. Thanks for having me here.

Ted Simons: A little overview there of this five communities project. Give us some more detail.

Dr. Lattie Coor: Happy to do so. Let me start if I may with the Arizona we want, which a year ago when we released it, identified two very significant things about Arizonans. Even before we got into the issues that they would like the policies they would like to see adopted, first, citizens in Arizona love this place passionate about it, loyal to it. Far more than any of the other places around the country where the Gallup policy has done its work. But they are not very engaged in their community. That we found very, very significant. Secondly, we found there was very significant disconnect between citizens and their elected officials. Only 10% felt their elected officials were doing a good job. Only 10%, they felt their elected officials were representing their interests. And so in our task to take this Arizona we want into action, on this instance, we want to go right into the communities themselves to ask people to focus on the things that mean the most to them. They will relate for the Arizona we want. They will relate to job creation and education and environment and relationship to growth and health care. Build to choose projects -- but to choose projects individually with a single group or together with several groups and make a proposal about what they would like to do with those.

Ted Simons: And a proposal would wind up, if successful, getting some kind of funding to help achieve these goals?

Dr. Lattie Coor: We will choose five out of all of those who submit ideas. We will start with a group of semi-finalists, let's say roughly 20 communities. Help them refine their plan down to 10 finalists and then with those 10 finalists we will get a full proposal from them. In the meantime, we will work with national foundations that are interested, not only in helping the larger policy rather than in a state -- arena in a state but helping people in communities to give voice to what they want to see happen.

Ted Simons: So what kind of money are we talking about here?

Dr. Lattie Coor: Well, it's always hard to know in advance. It depends on the size of the community and by the way, a community can be any one of a number of things, as long as it has a geographic boundary. Could be a school district, could be an economic development district, could be a neighborhood, could be a whole municipality. We expect the projects to be somewhere in the 25 to $100,000 a year range and our commitment with those we find, for the five we choose, is to find national foundation funding for three years of implementation for the successful communities.

Ted SImons: Obviously, a smaller community can use that money and have much more of an impact with that kind of money than a larger community. But again, that kind of money, how much impact can it make?

Dr. Lattie Coor: Depends on the quality of the project. It could have an implement impact if it brings large numbers of people together, has them focus on what they are doing. Remember, engagement means not only accomplishing the policy goals, but increasing the involvement in the political process. In registering to vote. In turning out to vote. In staying informed about the issues of your community. Those are all things that we believe can come from this project.

Ted Simons: It's more than just voting and volunteering, then, in other words.

Dr. Lattie Coor: It's being a knowledgeable, active, engaged citizen in your community.

Ted Simons: Is that what you mean? I know you use this phrase, "Improvement through citizen involvement." Is that what you are talking about here?

Dr. Lattie Coor: It is. We were so interested in the fact that, of the eight goals in the Arizona we want, goals like job creation and education, water management, health care access, infrastructure, that two of the eight goals had to do with civic engagement and citizen connectedness. 1/4 of all eight goals. And in that we discovered that Arizonans do, are in the bottom 10 states in terms of registration to vote, turnout to vote. The degree to which they are informed about policy issues. And so the citizen connectedness part in a community we think brings a very significant value in and of itself.

Ted Simons: Why do you think that is, why do you think people love this place but don't want to get involved?

Dr. Lattie Coor: I think there's several factors. The newness of people. Remember, Arizona, Phoenix today, greater Phoenix today, is larger than Arizona was 20 years ago. So it takes a while for things to settle in. People to get settled in. I think it's also the fact that we have not found ways to keep people as fully informed with new media, with new means of communication. Young people, for example, are not as actively engaged as they historically have been.

Ted Simons: Is that unique, though, to Arizona?

Dr. Lattie Coor: Well, the data shows as we look at all of the states across the nation, that we perform in the -- at the low end of the 50 states. So to a degree, it's present. I think relative to 20, 30 years ago, in all parts of the country, but more so in Arizona.

Ted Simons: OK. So we have cities, communities, neighborhoods, what have you, all applying for this, all developing proposals. They do have to reflect your report, though. Correct?

Dr. Lattie Coor: They have to take whichever issues are important to them as they relate to the larger goals of the Arizona we want. But the larger goals of the Arizona we want are right down the center of what everyone says out to be the kind of future they want for Arizona. So it is job creation and improving education and keeping young people in Arizona, one of the goals. Keeping talented young people in Arizona where people found that it was really a serious issue for us. So we asked them to relate them to the larger goals but most importantly, to find them in terms of what's important to their community.

Ted Simons: As far as -- I know there's some workshops here to help get these communities kind of up to speed and knowing what exactly you are looking for. How do we get more information on these workshops?

Dr. Lattie Coor: We are going to start the workshops this week. There will be six of them around the state. The first one is here in the valley on Wednesday, East Valley Partnership is joining us in hosting it. The one the next day is in Yuma. Go to our website, the You will find the entire five communities program described there and there's a little link to the workshops themselves that will give the location, the date, the time, all of the details about the workshops.

Ted Simons: Last question. Why are you doing this? I mean, you have had quite the career. You have made an impact in a lot of lives over your years. Some folks would think, it might be time to hit golf course or something. Why are you doing this?

Dr. Lattie Coor: I love this state. This state has been good to me and my family. My family goes back to territorial days. We have seen the promise. We have seen the opportunity. And we see some dysfunction going on now in terms of the kind of civic health you need to have a state be as good and successful in the years ahead as it has been in the past. And I am pleased to have an opportunity personally to try to do something about that.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Dr. Lattie Coor: My pleasure.

Dr. Lattie Coor:Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona;

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