Last Sunday, community leaders and others gathered at the Calvary Baptist Church to discuss civic participation in terms of rights, respect and responsibilities.This community dialogue was sponsored by the Human Relations Council of the Santa Monica Bay Area which is a “partnership of community organizations, institutions, businesses and individuals which promotes and supports a respectful and socially just community through education, advocacy and resolution of local conflicts and issues.” Former Mayor Nat Trives led off the discussion by stressing his belief that “the most important service is volunteerism…to that end I’ve dedicated my later years to improving the quality of life of those less fortunate than me.” He emphasized that people in the community should leave their “title at the door and sit down and work for those who need the work to be done. It doesn’t matter if it can be for troubled children. It can be for seniors. It can be for the homeless. Anybody that needs help.” He then mentioned that he belongs to 25 organizations. Dr. Karen Gunn, a psychology professor at Santa Monica College, followed Trives. She pointed out that “part of building a coalition and finding common ground is being willing to step outside your comfort zone and be involved in a sustained kind of effort…institutions are not going to change overnight.” She then emphasized that for coalitions to be successful they require that people must be willing to listen to all opinions. Gunn then became more specific about the problems in Santa Monica by stating, “One thing we may have to recognize is that the Pico Neighborhood may need some unique focus and intervention. But I don’t think that we should ignore the fact that parents that are raising teenagers that are North of Montana are probably going through some [of the same things].”The last speaker was Father Michael Gutierrez from St. Anne’s Catholic Church, who discussed the concept of train tracks where the haves are on one side and the have-nots are on the other side. He noted that to some Wilshire Blvd. is a train track, while to others Pico Blvd. is the dividing line. He also urged people to give up the “not in my back yard” mentality.After the speakers, the participants split up into discussion groups. The questions included, “How are you exercising your right to participate? How do we come together around issues in our community while respecting the rights of all members of our community? How do we exercise our rights responsibly, and with mutual respect, in order to enhance the quality of life for all in our community?”The next dialogue will be held sometime in June.
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