A Project for Students and Citizens

Hobson City: Week Six

In Hobson City on July 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Marian Royston is living democracy in Hobson City, Alabama.  Originally from Roanoke, Alabama, she is a senior majoring in history at Auburn University. Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

All communities are charged with the task of making important decisions at one point or another.  These decisions can be every day decisions that keep towns functioning or they can be pivotal decisions that determine the future course of that community.  Regardless of the gravity of a decision, it is important that members of a community are able to work through issues and reach a conclusion that everyone is willing to live with. During my time in Hobson City, I have not had the privilege of witnessing members of the community making any such decisions. This is not simply because the opportunity has not arisen; it is because ordinary citizens seem distanced from civic matters.

One of Hobson City’s tough issues is the fact that many citizens feel powerless when it comes to determining their future. The town has been in a state of stagnation for so long that many people have come to accept it as a way of life. This is apparent from the conversations that I’ve had with many citizens over the course of my project. Many express their concerns about the community, but they feel that the odds of things getting better are not good. Only a select few members of the town participate in committees and councils that can help determine the course that Hobson City is to take. Many people in the community acknowledge that they are disengaged from civic matters because they feel that there is no place for citizen activism outside of official roles. Others are disengaged because they don’t know how to become engaged.

As a result, everyone is not present at the table when important decisions are to be made in Hobson City. This disengagement can be detrimental to the further development of Hobson City.  I’ve learned throughout my time in Hobson City that community development is not simply making things happen in a community. Community development involves creating a citizenry that genuinely cares about the welfare of its community and empowering that citizenry to make important decisions regarding the future of that community.

There is a spark in Hobson City these days. That spark is present in the people that I interview. Despite the aforementioned level of disengagement, citizens are beginning to believe that change is possible in their home. The spark is apparent in the Hobson City Pride campaign that I’ve written about in the past. When people see progress, they want to be a part of it. That is the case of Hobson City. More people are concerned with the future of their community, and they want to do what they can to help it. That sentiment has been the key to me speaking with many candidates for the needs assessment. When I tell people that the data they provide will help make Hobson City a better place to live, they eagerly offer me the information I seek.

I don’t believe that Hobson City’s residents are apathetic about civic life. Instead, I think that they are simply watching and waiting for opportunities to participate. The community could very much benefit from more open, honest dialogue about the town. If citizens don’t come together and meet face to face they will never know about the challenges and opportunities that the town has. Hobson City is undoubtedly on the path to recovery, but community unification is one of the obstacles that the people will have to face soon in order to move forward. The citizens here are very capable of making important decisions; they simply must be given a fair opportunity to do so.

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