CEDAR RAPIDS — As a series of community conversations organized by leaders of the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force wraps up, the leaders are looking ahead to see what’s next.
The conversations were organized to engage the Cedar Rapids community in key issues including violence, affordable housing and economic opportunity.
Three meetings were held this summer as part of the series. A larger community event is planned for the early fall when the task force makes recommendations and seeks support from the city, county, schools and other organizations.
Coe College visiting professor and co-chair of the SET Task Force, Mary Wilcynski, said there is much work to do in addressing the systemic issues of poverty and violence, and the work necessitates a commitment from all corners of the community.
She spoke about how the community conversations have gone this summer and what SET Task Force plans next.
Q: How were the issues discussed at the meetings decided on?
A: We spent quite a bit of time working with former task force members to figure out which topics to discuss over the summer. Part of our thought process included finding topics that were most pressing and could realistically be addressed in short order. After much deliberation, the working group decided on public safety and community policing, affordable housing and economic opportunities.
Q: How have the meetings gone so far?
A: We are pleased with the outcome of these meetings. That community members take so much time out of their summers to join us to discuss incredibly complex issues shows that there are a lot of people out there who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Not only are we grateful for their interest and passion, but we’re inspired.
Q: What have you taken away from the panels and community input?
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A: Our community is filled with people who have passion, expertise and a desire to address the areas that surround systemic poverty and violence. The conversations have provided a forum for community members to make their voices heard. It is rewarding to know that members of our community are interested in coming together to discuss and debate the issues surrounding systemic poverty and gun violence. It is exciting to consider the possibilities and opportunities for our community. There is much work to do and we are hopeful that our community will commit to that work.
Q: Why should the community participate in these conversations?
A: The problem of youth violence, the issues surrounding poverty, the desire to have a safe, equitable and thriving community involve all of us whether we live in the heart of the city or a subdivision on the outskirts of town. Everyone, whether we have lived in Cedar Rapids for decades or just moved here months ago, deserve to have an opportunity to become his or her best and to contribute to our society. It is our responsibility to strive for opportunity for all. These community conversations are one way for people to be involved in that effort. While many other opportunities exist as well, we welcome people to participate in these conversations.
Q: What are the task force’s next steps when the community conversations series concludes?
A: Following the event in the fall, we will determine next steps for maintaining and managing the progress on the recommendations of the task force. We will continue to work with the city and the county as well as the business community and nonprofit organizations to bring forward the needed steps to create a safe, equitable and thriving community for all citizens in our community.