Detroit, The City: What's Next? FOCIS empowers Detroiters to weigh in on the city's most pressing issues through 'CitizenDetroit' initiative

May 01, 2012, 11:27 ET from Wayne State University

DETROIT, May 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Wayne State University's Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society (FOCIS) will launch a series of community workshops to educate high-performance (active and registered) voters about historical factors and events that contributed to Detroit's economic crisis. The CitizenDetroit initiative engages residents in the resolution of pressing issues while illustrating the complex landscape city leaders and elected officials must navigate to protect and advance Detroit's future. Tabletop exercises, including a budgeting simulation, give voters an experiential understanding of the difficulty associated with legislators' decision-making process.

CitizenDetroit upholds the university's longstanding commitment as an intellectual force and a forum for the exchange of ideas. In addition, it provides concrete data and a historical framework for the economic and demographic challenges afflicting communities across Southeast Michigan.

Coordinated by FOCIS, the Irvin D. Reid Honors College and the Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement, CitizenDetroit enlists three Detroit communities: Midtown, Northwest Detroit and Morningside.

President Emeritus Irvin D. Reid is the inaugural holder of the Applebaum Chair, director of FOCIS and a principal organizer of CitizenDetroit. As a member of Gov. Snyder's Detroit Financial Review Team and a co-signer of the Financial Stability Agreement between the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan, Reid has a unique perspective on the value of CitizenDetroit as a catalyst for putting the power of change back into the hands of voters.

"Detroit faces mounting challenges as its elected leaders work to revitalize the regional economy, provide badly needed resources to its residents and build a sound foundation for the next Detroit," Reid says. "The job of elected and civic leaders toward this effort is difficult. They cannot do it alone. Making real change in Detroit will require the involvement of citizens who are engaged earnestly in the political process and motivated toward constructive action. For such engagement to occur and be effective, citizens must be educated about social and political issues. Through such education they are better equipped to develop informed opinions about political decisions that affect our lives, including voting for political candidates."

The Citizens Research Council (CRC) -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization -- will provide participants a snapshot of the city's financial health and guide them through a budget prioritization exercise for allocating city resources.

"The CRC is partnering with FOCIS to help ensure participants' decisions are based on factual, current data," explains CRC Senior Research Associate Betty Buss. "The CRC believes it's critical for citizens to understand the financial and procedural processes for delivering city services. We applaud FOCIS and Wayne State for initiating this valuable community engagement effort."

In addition to supporting local civic literacy among residents, block associations and community associations, CitizenDetroit can be a source of valuable information for city agencies, civic leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. The discussions will identify and explore issues important to Southeast Michigan's citizens: public education, transportation, safety and security, economic development and the implications of Detroit's newly adopted consent agreement for city management.

CitizenDetroit co-organizer and WSU Honors College faculty member Sheila Cockrel is a former Detroit City Council member and budget committee chair. According to Cockrel, data collected through Citizen Detroit will encourage continued learning by Detroit's voters and electorate; the formulation of collegial relationships; and an open and honest dialogue between stakeholders and the region's civic leadership.

"Through regular community workshops, training opportunities for political candidates and roundtable discussions involving influential thought leaders, CitizenDetroit will enhance the quality and quantity of public knowledge about Detroit and Southeast Michigan," she says. "It is our hope that through this program we can engender a greater understanding of the region's challenges and help build the intellectual capital needed for Detroit to reach its potential."

For more information about CitizenDetroit, please visit:

Established in 2007, FOCIS is a special initiative that focuses Wayne State University's problem-solving resources on an eclectic range of topics important to the campus community and beyond. FOCIS lectures and related events bring together the institution's teaching, research and service missions to advance the frontiers of knowledge, promote informed debate and encourage responsible citizenship in an increasingly fast-paced, interconnected and complex global society. FOCIS involves coordinated public programs, foreign-study projects, research opportunities and ongoing community dialogue addressing specific issues that confront the citizens of Detroit, the United States and the world.

The Honors College
The Irvin D. Reid Honors College promotes informed, engaged citizenship as the foundation for academic excellence in a diverse global setting. The Honors College encourages students to enter public service and prepares them to do so in ways that benefit the communities they serve. The college integrates instruction and reflection with meaningful community service to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities. Through this concept, known as service-learning, students use what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. They learn the practical applications of their studies to become contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform.

About the Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement
The Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement was created through the generosity of alumnus Eugene Applebaum, founding chair of the Wayne State University Foundation. The Applebaum Chair is a catalyst for cooperation between the university and community organizations on issues in business and economic development, education, health, international outreach, politics and other areas. FOCIS is the Applebaum Chair's primary public platform.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 32,000 students.




SOURCE Wayne State University