By Michael Hill
The Citizens Campaign says Perth Amboy’s public schools have a 60 percent graduation rate. But, the campaign suggests the school district can raise the rate by using a tested and proven code of conduct that includes discipline, mentoring and internships and more.
“We received a positive response so I’m really hopeful and excited about the difference that we’re going to be making,” said Civic Trustee Lisette Lebron.
That approach is called the Civic Trustee Initiative. A hallmark of it is not pointing fingers.
“That starts taking over the conversation. You have to be able to harness that emotion and say, ‘What can we do?’” Lebron said.
“People are running for the exits from the civic arena,” said The Citizens Campaign Chairman Harry Pozycki.
Pozcyki co-founded The Citizens Campaign 15 years ago to train citizens how to access and navigate political systems to improve their towns — tools to turning inertia, dysfunction and frustration in to fuel for constructive change.
“The civic trustees who we recruit to better their city have to sign on to a pledge that they’re not going to raise problem unless they have a solution and that their solution has to be cost effective and based on evidence of success in other cities and that they’re going to advance them for adoption with a no-blame approach,” Pozcyki said.
In Newark, the campaign’s work — when Sen. Cory Booker was mayor — led to the pay-to-play law limiting political donations and several executive orders, including the creation of inspector general.
“We kind of serve as an auxiliary government, a community of problem solvers in every city to augment the problem-solving capacity of their elected officials,” Pozcyki said.
Pozycki says pilots of the campaign’s Civic Trustee Initiative are succeeding in Perth Amboy and improving police-community relations in Trenton.
Later this month, The Citizens Campaign plans to spread its wings and take its Civic Trustee Initiative across the state to empower the people.
“Citizens interacting with politicians, according to these principles, actually elevate the public dialogue,” Pozycki said.
Pozycki says the initiative’s roots are in ancient Greece.
“When citizens reached the age of maturity, they stood in their city hall, in their square and pledged to leave their city better than when they found it,” he said.
Lebron says she’s proud to be part of the change.
“It just sends a very specific message that it can be done,” she said.
The Civic Trustee Initiative is looking for more than a few good men and women across New Jersey to give power to the people.