A Project for Students and Citizens

Linden: Week One

In Linden on May 21, 2012 at 2:59 am

Blake Evans is living democracy in Linden, Alabama.  Originally from Deatsville, he is a junior majoring in communications in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

I have been many places, but none are more unique than Linden, Alabama.  Through just one week of Living Democracy, I have learned that though a place may be small, it takes many intricate relationships to run it, and those relationships can lead to success or failure.  In just a short time, Linden has cemented itself in my mind as a collective group of diverse citizens with tremendous potential because of the uniqueness of their city.

I had the privilege of attending the Industrial Development Board meeting on Monday, along with the City Council and Utility Board meetings on Tuesday.  These meetings gave me insight into how Linden ticks economically and politically.  For example, one topic that was of issue in the City Council meeting was whether or not pets should be allowed in a local park.  To solve the issue, an informative deliberation transpired to determine the best solution.  Council members had to take into account lawful issues that could arise in even the worst case scenario.  Resolution of the issue took serious thought from every council member, especially Dennis Breckenridge, the representative for parks, recreation, and civic improvement, and Woody Dinning, Jr., the city’s attorney.  Though allowing pets in a park seems like such a small issue, liability claims could drastically hurt city funds if decisions such as this one are not taken seriously.

Great strides were also made this week concerning a portion of the youth population of Linden, specifically Linden’s Youth Advisory Board.  Because community leaders want to inspire the upcoming generations to become involved and engaged in community history and politics, we have collaboratively worked to create a photography project that will encourage students to dive deep into Linden’s civic life.  By doing so, we are hopeful that the youth will gain a greater desire to help their community through actively participating in the small “p” politics (politics that are defined by the everyday interactions of citizens) of their community.  Thanks to the Industrial Development Board, the three students with the best, most thoughtful projects will receive cash awards for their efforts, and every student will get a free meal.

Another area of the wide-scoping Linden Living Democracy project that progressed this week was the DVD project.  The DVD will be used by Linden to promote the city to future businesses and citizens.  Furthermore, by asking citizens for their input regarding what should be shown and referenced in the DVD, we hope that citizens will be reminded about the qualities of Linden that make it such a great place to live.  As aforementioned, much progress was made regarding the DVD this past week.  On Friday, I had a meeting with Kenneth Walker from the University of West Alabama and Broadview Media, the production company that will be producing the video.  Linden has many great qualities that make it uniquely significant, a few of which were pleasant surprises that I learned about this week.  For example, Linden will soon have a showroom that will display a rodeo training mechanism known as the Time Machine, which was invented by another person from Linden, Kevin Dixon.  Another pleasant surprise that I gained knowledge of this week was the fact that Linden has a vast industrial park that I am certain will prove very inviting to potential industries.  The Time Machine and the industrial park are two unique qualities of Linden, and they will  have important roles in the DVD.  Furthermore, Don Daily, a former Linden resident and current Capitol Journal host, will be the main speaker in the DVD.  He has a great background in television and radio, and that, along with the fact that he is from Linden, makes him the perfect voice for this project.

A final surprising discovery that I made comes in the form of a concept.  I say that because it made me look at Linden in a completely new light.  While Linden has a great citizen-base and high economic potential, it is often hard to sell Linden to outsiders.  However, in a discussion with Mayor Mitzi Gates this week, she helped me realize that, in reality, Linden is right in the middle of everything.  It is located only an hour from Mississippi, less than two hours from Montgomery, two hours from Mobile, and just a little more than an hour from Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Furthermore, it is very close to great institutions of higher education such as the University of West Alabama, which is only a half-hour away.  These facts will be very interesting to potential citizens and businesses because they drastically change people’s mindset concerning Linden from one of a boring town to one of a place that is a prime location for commerce.

All in all, week one was a great start to a summer of Living Democracy in Linden.  I gained information and knowledge about many aspects of Linden that will prove beneficial throughout the entirety of the project.  The fact that I know more about how the city runs gives me greater knowledge about the current chain of command.  Knowing who to go to in different circumstances is essential, and I feel that I have a much better understanding of that now.  Also, the fact that the Youth Advisory Board seems to be on board with the Living Democracy Initiative is a great relief because through them, the work done during the 2012 summer can last a very long time.  Furthermore, the meeting with Broadview Media was much needed and a huge step towards success.  The first official drafting of the script will begin early next week, and the fact that Linden has many unique qualities, as aforementioned, to offer businesses and citizens should help shape the DVD into an excellent promotional film.  Finally, the realization that Linden can be a unique business hub in west Alabama should be, and will be, communicated throughout the DVD.  Though it can be surprising, it is a very logical conclusion after considering the facts.  Communicating this concept effectively will be essential to make this summer successful.  If every week is as productive as the first one, though, Linden Living Democracy has no worries.

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