Fostering Economic Growth through Municipalities : Montenegro

  • 03 May, 2016

In coordination with the U.S. Department of State and Global Ties Arizona, visitors from the country of Montenegro enjoyed four days of programming in the state of Arizona. From observances of various city council meetings to one on one sessions with one of the nation’s top public policy institutes, our visitors gained the knowledge necessary to pursue their research on the American political system further.
 
Our visitors began their week in the Valley of the Sun with an observance of Scottsdale’s City Council meeting. Having only a few hours from walking off the plane to relax, our visitors were ready to start their program and witness city government proceedings in action. Our visitors were also able to observe a study session in the City of Tempe later in the week. There, they witnessed how council members and citizens work together on neighborhood and community issues. Council members and neighborhood activists sat at a round table in the middle of Tempe City Council Chambers with the rest of the community there to witness, these types of meetings are not common in Montenegro and served asan exciting experience for our Visitors to be a part of.
 
One of the last public meetings our visitors from Montenegro attended was a focus group meeting in Southern Scottsdale. Hosted by the Scottsdale Gateway Alliance, neighbors from Southern Scottsdale communities came together to discuss their vision for their community and how to “RE-Imagine” Southern Scottsdale. The focus group meeting is part of a year-long effort to assist in the revitalization of the region currently known as Southern Scottsdale. Neighbors discussed an identity for their community and ways to become involved with the City of Scottsdale’s economic development and redevelopment. Our Visitors enjoyed complimentary pizza and house brewed beer at Fate Brewery, where this meeting was held, and were able to ask questions of the host at the conclusion of the meeting to better serve their evaluation of citizen participation for focus group meetings pertaining to city revitalization efforts.
 
The International Visitors had the opportunity to meet with many professionals in the Arizona Valley to discuss fostering economic growth through municipalities. Their first personal encounter was with the Communications Director for the City of Scottsdale, Mr. Kelly Corsette. Mr. Corsette discussed his department’s methodology for communication strategies to the citizens of Scottsdale. Through press releases on public safety announcements, and social media channels, the office keeps the public informed on a variety of topics ranging from municipal development, to water safety, to criminal activity. The City of Scottsdale launched a web portal called SpeakUpScottsdale.com, in an effort to expand their public engagement strategies. The site combines crowdsourcing public discussion forums, surveys, and other engagement tools to help gather public input and fresh ideas. Our Visitors were highly intrigued by the use of social media in municipalities and asked questions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of such online platforms. Mr. Corsette and his team provided personal testimonies and debrief of the results of their online platforms and ways it has helped the City of Scottsdale, as a whole, become a more interconnected place to live.

 
During our visit with the Goldwater Institute, the Executive Vice President and Development Director for the Institute discussed their philosophy of the pursuit of liberty and representing cases such as the “Right to Try”, “Education Savings Accounts” and others, to help the Visitors understand the type of constitutional law they defend. The Institute discussed a debate held in May of last year, regarding the use of “dark money” in our state. The visitors had not heard of this term before and learned how political non-profits and PACs are able to donate to campaigns without disclosing their contributors. In Montenegro, this is not the case. Groups contributing to those running for office do disclose their donors to general public whereas Arizona groups do not. The Visitors had a difficult time understanding how this was possible, considering how transparent our government is on so many other issues. The Institute provided their position on the “dark money” issue and related their research to that of the Montenegro campaign disclosure policies, as best as they could. The Goldwater Institute sent each of our Visitors home with a gift bag full of past monthly newsletters, political palm cards and a book mark. They thoroughly enjoyed this nearly two hour meeting with lead professionals of the Institute.
 
Our Visitors were highly intrigued by the use of land development and zoning in our state, particularly at the city and county levels. In an observance of the Maricopa County Planning and Development Department meeting, our Visitors were able to meet with one of the appointed board members to discuss his philosophy of land use in Maricopa County. They came to understand how cases are presented to the board, how zoning differs at the state and city level and ways in which citizens can participate and speak on behalf of any given case. Again, our Visitors developed a strong understanding of the vision of the Planning & Development Department as they provide market competitive planning and development services that are safe, consistent, timely and convenient for Maricopa County constituents so they can responsibly develop and enjoy real property. This meeting contributed to key factors for development of communities through land and zoning of various properties. Whether the case be an apartment complex, gas station, or mall, our Visitors discovered how truly impactful it is to learn of what the community wants and ways to collect data to better serve the formulation of the project in question.
 
Our Visitors from Montenegro sat down with the President of a public affairs and political consulting group in Scottsdale, Kyle Moyer& Company. President, Kyle Moyer, discussed his years of experience with campaigns, coalition building as well as land development issues at the city level. One of our visitors from Montenegro had many questions regarding campaigns, for he is running his own in the nation of Montenegro. Not only were these discussions with Kyle information for all visitors, but served as dialogue between a political consultant and current candidate. Although the campaign is headquartered in Montenegro, Kyle provided insight on building a team to better serve the campaign as a whole and creating a message that would resonate with voters. Our Visitors thoroughly enjoyed their time with Kyle and invited him to Montenegro to observe their political processes and speak on his work in the United States.
 

In a meeting with the Arizona Advocacy Network, a representative discussed citizen participation at all levels of Arizona’s economy. A conversation based on basic rights and responsibilities of citizens to engage in the voting process, the Visitors had an at length discussion about Arizona’s judicial merit selection system and promoting diversity on the bench, protecting Arizona’s constitutional citizens’ initiative and referendum rights.
 
One of the last appointments our Visitors had was with Representative David Schweikert’s Communication Director, Ashley Sylvestor. Ashley discussed communication strategies at the local, state and federal level for Congressman Schweikert’s Arizona office. Her utilization of Facebook, Twitter and blogs are what assist in the communication of Rep. Schweikert’s messaging and announcements. The Visitors were shocked to find out the Representative handles the majority of his posts on Facebook and Twitter, but relies on his staff to assist in the execution of large mail pieces and social media campaigns, specifically, for his district. Our Visitors learned of David’s dedication and admire his efforts in answering his constituent’s questions to ease their concerns.
 
The Visitors concluded their program with a meeting with the Director of the Arizona We Want Institute. The Director provided an overview of the Institute’s progression on identifying a set of common goals to build a statewide network of citizens, leaders and partner organizations and ways in which they maintain a statewide effort to reconnect Arizona citizens with leaders in all sectors to move Arizona forward.
 

Out of all the exciting meetings and observances of Arizona’s government at work, our visitors closest encounter of American hospitality and culture was during their home hospitality stay with one of our Global Ties Arizona members. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the Visitors sipped margaritas and relaxed around the dinner table at Mrs. Judy Paul-Farguson’s home. Our Visitors were thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss life in our country and be welcomed into a typical American home. By far, this dinner was the most enriching experience for the Montenegro Visitors to be a part of. Overall, this program was a success and our Visitors plan on visiting the Valley of the Sun, again, in the future.

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