Plenty of ways exist to participate in Johnson City government

Gary B. Gray • May 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM

So, you think you could make a difference by serving on one of Johnson City’s boards or committees?

Maybe you have an interest in planning and zoning. Perhaps your expertise and ambition would be a boost to the city’s public library. Or maybe you want to apply your decision-making abilities as a City Commission member.

Go for it.

“You’ll hear a lot of folks saying, ‘hey, what are they doing over there?’ ” said Community Relations Director Becky Hilbert. “They need to know our doors are open.”

The Johnson City Regional Planning Commission, Public Art Committee, Housing Authority — these are governmental bodies that for various reasons call out for participants. The openings will be posted on the city’s website, and the applications are a piece of cake to fill out.

Perhaps the best way to get both a nuts and bolts understanding of how city government works is through Johnson City’s JC 101.

If you know some but want to get on the “inside,” this is the place. It’s not an exercise in baby-sitting at all. Commissioner Clayton Stout ran for and won a seat on the City Commission after graduating from this class.

“JC 101 can help people learn about what the responsibilities are of local government department heads and staff,” Hilbert said. “Also, citizens will get a chance to make different comments, ask questions and make suggestions. All the information is public, that way people can really get in and see where their tax dollars are going. Some of the things in the budget and city charter can be very confusing, so we’ll help them understand how the specifics work.”

The program is designed to enhance and develop citizen awareness and understanding of the government’s role in the community. Enrollees get the skinny on everything from the workings of the city’s finance and budgeting procedures to waste water technology, with the objective being to provide Johnson City residents with the information and background necessary to address community issues and work together for the enhancement of our community.

The program consists of 24 hours of government information to include presentations, tours and a question-and-answer period during each class. Classes meet at various locations throughout the city from 6-9 p.m. with graduation certificates being presented at a City Commission meeting, including a chance to step up to the microphone and tell others about the experience.

Applicants must be 21 years of age, have no criminal history other than minor traffic violations; commit to attendance of most classes; and sign all required waivers and agreement forms. Participants agree to submit to a background check to verify all information given in their application.

There is nothing formal about it. Just be polite to the K-9s.

And speaking of the law — it is a big part of public services provided to citizens by the city.

In order to enhance and develop citizen awareness and understanding of the police role in the community, the Johnson City Police Department has developed a Citizen’s Police Academy.

The program consists of 45 hours of police training including much “hands-on” instruction. Areas covered are traffic stops, investigation procedures, SWAT, K-9, vice and narcotics investigations, firearms, self-defense instruction, a required ride-a-long, hiring and selection process, support services, 911 functions and records division.

The objective of this course is not to make the “graduates” police officers, but better-informed citizens with a greater general knowledge of the department’s many functions and to foster enhanced community relations from these graduates and the people they touch in every day life.

Want to serve on a board or committee? Here’s a list of the many opportunities Johnson City provides:

n Board of Building Codes: Hears and decides appeals and variances to the Johnson City Building Code, also decides questions of code interpretation, oversees examinations of contractors to perform work in the community and recommends code changes

n Board of Dwelling and Standards Review: Determines whether dwellings are fit for human habitation and requires specific remedial measures necessary for dwellings designated as unfit.

n Board of Zoning Appeals: Hears and decides appeals to provisions of the Zoning Code, considers applications for special exceptions and decides questions of interpretation of the code.

n Civil Service Commission: Addresses public safety employees’ civil service grievances and certifies entry-level and promotional rosters.

n Freedom Hall Advisory Board: Advises in matters concerning Freedom Hall Civic Center.

n Historic Zoning Commission: Considers conservation zoning to ensure the preservation of structures of historic value.

n Housing and Community Development Citizens Advisory Board: Advises and makes recommendations concerning housing, community and economic development issues.

n Industrial Development Board of Johnson City: Created as a means of financing business/industrial facilities that would create employment and economic growth.

n Johnson City Development Authority: Promotes reinvestment, raises capital, generates revenue, and acts to promote the general health, safety and welfare of the Johnson City community.

n Johnson City Housing Authority: Establishes policy and procedures governing the operation of the Housing Authority.

n Johnson City Public Library Board: Operates the public library.

n Johnson City Regional Planning Commission: With the assistance of the planning staff, administers the city’s subdivision code, advises the City Commission on matters of long-range development policy, zoning and annexation and prepares the city’s general plan for physical development.

n Johnson City Seniors’ Advisory Council: Makes recommendations on matters of the center.

n Johnson City Seniors’ Center Foundation: Generates philanthropic support for the Johnson City Seniors’ Center.

n Public Art Committee: Develops and implements public art programs throughout the community.

n Tree and Landscaping Board: Recommends policies for the promotion and management of the urban forest.

Openings are posted at www.johnsoncitytn.org. Go to “Departments,” “Administration” then “Community Relations.” Some positions have specific background and experience requirements. For more information, call Community Relations at 434-6021 or email comrel@johnsoncitytn.org.

Applications for JC 101 and the Citizen’s Police Academy can be found on the city’s website. They can be faxed to 434-6085, or mailed to Community Relations Department, City of Johnson City, P.O. Box 2150, Johnson City, TN 37605-2150. Participants will be notified by mail, email, and/or phone call. For questions regarding the program, call Lorena Bennett at 434-6022.

The “Week at a Glance,” or WAG as it is commonly known, also can be found on the city website. This includes meeting dates and times, as well as other functions and events and an alert of office and street closings.

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos