City wins awards for community involvement

Tallahassee has received state and national awards for its outstanding efforts in helping citizens remain informed and involved.

Last week, at the Tallahassee City Commission meeting, the City’s Communications Department received 12 awards at the Florida Public Relations Association’s (FPRA) annual conference. Amanda Fliger, APR president of the Capital Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association, presented the award.

Michelle Bono, assistant to the city manager, said some residents assume that community involvement is the same nationwide. She said the awards show that Tallahassee is not like every other community. The city cares about resident involvement and what Tallahassee does is the best in the nation and the state of Florida.

“I think what it says in Tallahassee is that if you’re willing to get involved, you can really make a difference,” said Bono. “It was the citizen’s involvement that led us to winning these awards and I think what it means for people in this community is ‘Hey, I can make Tallahassee a better place if I get involved and I actually have a government that is willing to let me and encourages me to be an active part.'”

Bono said staying informed and involved in the community means finding something to be passionate about.

“Because the truth is, a lot of us don’t care about things, except for what matters to us,” Bono said.

Awards were received for aspects of three major citizen involvement and outreach initiatives.

One of which was the launch of construction on Gaines Street last year, inspired by an innovative “Flash Mob” dance. It included more than 150 local volunteers and helped focus attention on the City Commission’s vision for creating a sense of place in the arts and cultural district.

David Barrow Wiley, a professor at Florida A&M, constructed and directed the “Flash Mob” dance. He wanted the 150 participants to represent the different demographics in Tallahassee.

“The approval that was given to this project in the first place required audacity because when you are trying to engage the public in that way it is unconventional, it requires people trusting,” Wiley said. “I feel like, in terms of being informed and reaching out to the public, if you don’t have interesting enough ideas that resonate with the public, your ability to get them involved will be diminished.”

The Council on Culture and Arts (COCA) was thrilled when the city asked them to be involved with the Gaines Street flash mob dance. COCA spokeswoman Peggy Brady said the city’s community outreach will not go unnoticed.

“The flash mob that COCA worked with the city to produce not only told the residents about Gaines St. construction, it brought together a large group of citizens from all over town to work with FAMU and FSU dancers, a professional director and choreographer, elected officials and even the fire chief and police,” said Brady. “We spent several days of rehearsal where we got to know each other and the dance steps before we all got up at the crack of dawn to film the street dance.”

The award was for the creativity and the end result, but the process of doing the outreach in this way achieved another city and of course COCA goal of connecting people through the arts.