Editorial: City has plenty of chances for hands-on research

Published 12:30 am Sunday, July 26, 2015

Claire Allen, a rising eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School, spent a good portion of last Wednesday with Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins seeing how the department works on a daily basis.

She learned about fingerprinting with crime scene investigator Victoria Young. Collins explained evidence collection and storage, and K-9 officer Joseph Martinez introduced Claire to his dog, Jack. Overall, Collins gave Allen an inside look around the police station, and it was probably worth the money Claire’s mother spent in winning a day with the chief at a Sacred Heart fund-raising auction.

It would be educational for all Salisbury residents to spend some time in the shoes of their public officials. Think how instructive it could be to see the personnel, financial, infrastructure, customer service, media and emergency situations that Collins, City Manager Lane Bailey, Fire Chief Bob Parnell, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Boehmer and other city staff members deal with regularly.

Allen was fortunate to have an experience to which few residents are privy;  those who work for taxpayers are too busy to give anyone and everyone a tour.

But residents who make the effort can gain an enormous amount of information on how their city works by attending Salisbury City Council, Planning Board, Zoning Board, Historic Preservation Commission, Community Appearance Commission, Tree Board and Parks and Recreation Board meetings.

They’ll learn even more serving as members of these board and commissions, and those opportunities are plentiful. With such a big field of Salisbury City Council candidates this year, it might be wise for voters, in their winnowing out process, to ask who has been involved through the years in riding the streets with police, going to neighborhood meetings, serving on or attending city board meetings and showing an overall willingness to participate, communicate and work with others.

To its credit, the city is preparing to offer its second annual Salisbury Citizen’s Academy, whose 10 sessions from Sept. 10 to a Nov. 12 graduation are free and open to anyone 16 and older, though class size is limited to 20. The application period closed July 17, and city staff members are going through the applications now to determine the number of seats spoken for.

The classes, which meet from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays and include a dinner, offer sessions on an introduction to government, public services, community planning and engineering, utilities, Fibrant, parks and recreation, fire, police and human resources/budget.

Not many of us have the chance to do what Claire Allen did this past week, but other opportunities to learn about city government are out there for the taking.