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Local Voices Heard by Citizens’ Institute

Township Council recognizes ‘a great beginning’ of conversation by advisory committee.

The Citizens’ Institute is trying to make Livingston "even better, one conversation at a time." It’s an ambitious goal of an advisory group chaired by former Mayor Arlene Johnson. Over the course of the spring, they held three two-hour meetings in which more than 70 participants talked about all things Livingston.

On Monday night, the Township Council recognized members of the Each of the group's advisory members received a personalized certificate, as well as a pin with the inscription that read "Together We Can Make A Difference."

The message is fitting for a group that relies heavily on dialog amongst the community. "We're going to be counting on a lot of you to tell your story," Johnson said.

The committee was the result of a partnership between Johnson and Township Manager Michele Meade. "We had a vision that started with Michele and I caught the fever," Johnson said.

The group had three objectives. The first was, in Johnson's words, to have conversations across demographic sectors. "I have to say we did accomplish that," Johnson said.

The second objective was to foster conversations between members on an individual-to-individual level and not advocacy. It's an area where there is room for improvement, Johnson said. "I think we have further work to do in terms of helping people understand that this isn't a committee, this isn't a town meeting, this isn't a task force. It is a citizen's institute."

The third objective was to define what most people wanted in the town. The group caught on with its members, some of whom spoke highly of the mission.

Rev. Leslie Martin, one of the group's participants, was in attendance on Monday night and shared his praise for what he believed was a worthwhile program. "I learned a great deal about what are the challenges for Livingston and where the conversation is".

Lori Goodian, a member of the Advisory Board, expressed similar thoughts. "The biggest learning was getting an understanding of what some of the citizens see as the challenges of this town and what their vision is for the town," she said.

"It was really gratifying to see community members troubleshooting and problem solving with us, as well as giving great feedback," added Meade, who also pointed out that the group was comprised of the most diverse group of residents that she has seen during her career with the township.

In her closing remarks, Johnson commended the participation of those who took part in the. "You made this a great beginning," she said.

For more information on the Citizen's Insitute, visit its website @ http://www.livingstontownship.org/citizensinstitute/

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