ARCHBOLD - A group formed about a year ago to bring people and government closer is gearing up for its first major challenge: sparking polite dialogue on taxes.
The Archbold Community Collaborative has no position on the upcoming school tax levy, the district's first since 1993. But the group hopes to attract about 300 people to a meeting Feb. 6 as it gears up to disseminate information on the levy issue and tries to keep the talk about it gentle.
"That's the whole idea of the collaborative, a civil discussion about things that go on in our community, our schools," said Archbold school district Superintendent Ken Cline, who helped found the collaborative.
But while the group will start discussion on the levy, it "is not a levy committee,' Mr. Cline said. "They will not be out saying 'vote for the schools.' They will be there in terms of providing information on either side of the equation."
"The collaborative is a communication tool of the community," said Lillian Radabaugh, the group's point person for discussion groups. "It's not pro or negative on any particular subject."
The schools approached the group to see if they could use it to spread information on the issue, and get feedback from the public, she said.
When he considered starting the group a year or so ago, Mr. Cline asked folks from a broad swath to join, including business owners, law enforcement officials, and members of civic groups. He figured the more diversity the group had, the better, especially as potentially touchy subjects arose.
Mrs. Radabaugh, who has participated in talks in other people's home and hosted two coffee meetings in her own home, believes the approach is working.
"You throw out an actual fact, people have opinions, and they start talking about it," she said. "Everyone has an opinion. Sometimes people feel like 'the majority must think this, so I might as well not voice my opinion."
After a meeting at her house, "I had a couple of women that walked away saying, 'I felt this way on the subject, but I didn't have all the facts and now I have more to think about.'●"
Both hope other government agencies will take advantage of the networking possibilities the group provides. The group now has about 150 members, with 50 of those being active, Mrs. Radabaugh said.
"It's an excellent vehicle for those agencies to get feedback about issues that are confronting them," Mr. Cline said.
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