Riverdale citizens get city civics lesson

By Justin Boron

Carilyn Devoe got a crash course recently in what she says is one of the most important things for Riverdale to do - keep the city looking good.

A clean city shows the type of people who live in Riverdale, the 13-year resident said.

"We have good people out here, and I want to make sure it stays that way," Devoe, 47, said.

The hour-long seminar on city code enforcement was a segment of Riverdale University, a four-week civics class started by City Manager Iris Jessie to foster community activism. The class is part of a broad initiative in the city to bring citizens closer to the governing process at all levels.

Riverdale Police Chief Thetus Knox has worked to bring more neighborhood groups and youth into the law enforcement fray, and Fire Chief Billy Hayes has led several fire safety programs.

Jessie's initiative began last October when 21 citizens and two city council members graduated from the class. She calls it "community building."

"We don't want citizens to see themselves as separate from the government," Jessie said.

The city hopes, she said, the classes will build a block of citizens, equipped to handle community event planning and possibly participation in advisory committees.

"We're hoping . . . to form an alumni group, so we could have a ready cadre of people interested in working on different events," Jessie said.

"We can't do it alone."

Council member Michelle Bruce, who graduated with Council member Rick Scoggins, said the program works to create a more informed public, which in turn keeps the government more accountable.

"It's definitely needed," she said.

Devoe said it was important that the leaders take the class to set an example for the rest of the community.

"They're part of our city and they're our leaders so that's a plus," she said.

Bruce also said the course could be more comprehensive.

Jessie said the city is looking at expanding the course to offer a more in-depth look at areas like grant writing and public speaking.

The next Riverdale University class will start classes sometime in the fall, Jessie said.