Archive for Thursday, July 21, 2005

Citizen’s group looks to spark local political awareness

July 21, 2005

Last month, Robert Smoot received a political wake up call -- and he wasn't alone.

Smoot has joined with other local residents to form a community awareness group that strives to put the citizen back in the city forum. The group calls itself ACE, or the Awareness Coalition of Eudora.

"It feels like 'The Dukes of Hazzard' with Boss Hogg in the middle and a bunch of puppets on strings," said group member Joe Wilson, describing why he wanted to get involved in the city's state of affairs.

The group has no real leader, but Smoot initiated the project when he saw a need for a voice.

The idea came after Smoot lived in the Eudora community for three years without, in his mind, doing anything for the city.

"I really do regret not having been involved in the three years that I've lived here in Eudora," Smoot said in comments made July 11 to the Eudora City Council.

Then his friend Bobby Arnold, the director of Eudora Parks and Recreation Department learned he might not have a job. Arnold's plight awoke Smoot from what he called his "slumber."

Smoot then mobilized to start a petition to save Arnold's job.

In three hours of work, Smoot collected nearly 200 signatures, which he brought to the council meeting. He said he believed that if he had 12 more hours he could have reached 1,000.

Smoot returned to the council on July 11, without the 1,000 signatures, but ready to speak.

He delivered a prepared speech that explained why he thought Arnold should stay in his position. Behind him were seven different citizens, each of whom added reasons for retaining Arnold.

"I've decided to make a stand for the citizens of the community," Smoot said.

What began as a petition to help Arnold now has expanded into a group of people who are dedicated to take part in the city government. The group currently includes 20 people. Smoot said after a few meetings, he looks for it to hit 100 members.

ACE is looking to have representatives at major municipal functions such as city council meetings and school board meetings, Smoot said.

"We want to be an organization that represents the community's best interests," Smoot said.

The group plans to circulate information on city issues and work as a supplementary information source. The group will support the city council on issues they believe will help the city but also point out areas of improvement, Smoot said.

Mary Dahn has watched city councils come and go and hopes the members of this group keep to their ideals when attending meetings.

"I hope they're not going to be looking at it from a personal standpoint," Dahn said.

The group will meet at 7 p.m. July 31 at the Eudora Township Fire Department, 310 East 20th St.

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