Residents to Enhance City through New Initiative

Residents gathered Tuesday night at the Challenger Learning Center Planetarium as city leaders launched the Tallahassee Town and Gown (TAG) relations project.

The informational meeting was the first of a series of forums the organization will host as part of its goal of “turning Tallahassee into an even better place to live and work.”

The project, funded by Florida State, Florida A&M, Tallahassee Community College, the City of Tallahassee and Leon County among other businesses and organizations, began the first phase of its four-step process to a better Tallahassee in July 2010 by conducting research on community issues and developing and proctoring surveys to both city residents and leaders.

The surveys focused on obtaining an accurate perception and understanding of each group’s perceived issues the city faces and could improve on.

The four phases of the initiative include surveying residents and leaders, conducting a series of forums to present and discuss the data of surveys, developing a process and selecting and implementing projects based on what was learned.

“Right now we need to look at where are we and where are we going,” project director Mike Pate said.

“Our timing couldn’t be better because now is the perfect time and place to be talking about these issues so that we can begin having these conversations before we get to a point where things turn together and we forget how difficult it was during this time period.”

During the forum, Pate discussed the results of the surveys, which were conducted in October 2010.

According to the results, community residents and leaders were mainly concerned with economic development partnerships, public safety issues and using university research to create jobs and new businesses.

There was also an expressed concern of university and student involvement within the community by several residents who attended the forum.

Pate said he was confident that the presidents of the higher education institutions were open to becoming more engaged with the community and planned to be more than just financially supportive to TAG.

“We are looking forward to partnering with local businesses, governmental entities and neighboring institutions through this ‘Town and Gown’ initiative,” FAMU President James Ammons said in a recent statement.

“I believe that from the well-established relationships that we have built over the years, we can collaborate on economic initiatives and help provide a more enriching environment for all of our citizens. I’m pleased that FAMU is able to help support the effort.”

Sharon P. Saunders, chief communications Officer at FAMU and member of the TAG Advisory Board, is also confident that FAMU’s faculty and students will become actively involved with the TAG initiative to create a better Tallahassee.

Saunders recognizes that many FAMU students are not aware of the initiative and has begun taking steps to increase student awareness and participation with the program.

“Through the ‘Town and Gown’ (TAG) initiative, we are exploring ways that FAMU can collaborate on a number of projects, including how students and the community can engage in ways that are mutually beneficial,” Saunders said.

“We are in the early stages of developing the program and will reach out to students and the larger community to share a comprehensive plan. We believe that TAG is needed and can only serve to make Tallahassee a better place to live.”

Pate estimated that the project’s duration will be about two years and urged involvement from all residing in Tallahassee.

He also encouraged attendees to visit the project’s website and the official Facebook page for the group, TAG Tallahassee, to remain current on TAG discussions and events.