A Conference on Community
MUSC outreach group to host conference on role of government May 3 on James Island
By Charlie Morrison | Community Editor
Where else in the country, let alone the county, does understanding your government begin with answering the question, ‘what color is your trash can?’ Only on James Island, where residents have as tough a task as anyone in understanding the nuts and bolts of their government, how it works, and what it can do for them. A handful of local governmental bodies share the responsibility of servicing James Island, and while intergovernmental cooperation is improving, there exists still an information gap between the community and its leaders. In an effort to close that gap, even if ever so slightly, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Public Information and Community Outreach (PICO) group will be setting up shop at James Island Elementary School on Friday, May 3 to and 4 for a Community Leadership Institute event on issues facing the island.
PICO’s mission is educating policy makers and community members alike on public policy, namely teaching elected and appointed officials “how to access and obtain the information necessary for making good decisions, and then communicate that information to the citizenry.” Through events like next weekend’s Community Leadership Institute event, they provide both government officials and citizens alike the hands on skills to get things done with respect to public policy.
We don’t want to go in and just do a complaint session, we want to the residents to hear some information and about the people who can help deal with those situations … These are people with major responsibilities with state-wide programs, and I think people will want to hear them.”
– MUSC’s Director of Public Information and Community Outreach, Dr. David Rivers
PICO recently held events on Waldmalaw and Johns Islands. The event on James Island was in the planning stage for months, according to organization officials. The Community Leadership Institute event couldn’t have come at a better time, as many residents, nearly two years since the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling declaring that the Town of James Island was improperly formed cast the island into a collective state of confusion, remain in the dark as to who to call for answers to basic problems involving government services.
“We always bring the discussion into view the role of government, just to clarify the role. We’ve found in our work that a lot of people are confused at different levels as to who’s responsible for doing certain things,” says MUSC Assistant Professor and Director of the Public Information and Community Outreach, Dr. David Rivers, who will serve as a moderator for some of the event activities.
“The driving force behind the event is to bring information on issues, whether it be heath, environmental issues, youth issues … to identify issues but at the same time, make recommendations as to how to deal with those issues,” he continues. “We don’t want to go in and just do a complaint session, we want to the residents to hear some information and about the people who can help deal with those situations.
“These are people with major responsibilities with state-wide programs, and I think people will want to hear them,” says Rivers.
The event kicks off Friday May 3 at 5 p.m. with an introduction to the program, the MUSC, group and the topics to be addressed. Following the introduction, the group will dive into the first of five sessions on specific topics relevant to James Island residents and local government officials alike on the role of federal, state, and local governments in the community. Following each discussion session, the group will enter into a question and answer period.
Saturday will begin with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast and continue into early afternoon. The remaining three sessions, on “youth issues and challenges,” economic development, transportation, housing, and community development, health disparities/health issues,” respectively, will be conducted throughout the day.
Representatives from a number of prominent federal and state government organizations will join key elected and appointed officials from Charleston in making themselves available to James Island residents, both throughout each session and afterwards. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development will contribute to the first three sessions, while representatives from MUSC will lead the discussion on health issues to be held on Saturday afternoon.
Following closing remarks from PICO Program Coordinator Dr. Latecia Abraham, the event will wrap up with will offer closing remarks on Saturday, following which representatives of federal, state and local agencies will be invited to bring resources and information and set up in information booths for a post-event information fair.
The James Island Community Leadership Institute event will be held on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4. The event is free to the public, but parties interested in attending must register by next Monday, April 29. You can register online at PICO’s website at http://pico.library.musc.edu. James Island Elementary School is located at 1872 Grimball Rd.
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