Jocelyn Bronson

Marana Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson welcomes delegates to the fall Citizens’ Forum.

Danyelle Khmara

The Marana Citizen’s Forum chose a Public Art Program as its fall project during its first meeting last Thursday, and will develop recommendations for council on implementing a town-wide program.

The forum overwhelming agreed on public art, winning out over three other topics: The Gateway to Marana Main Street, Creating a Healthy Community and Tourism in Marana.

Twice a year, Marana holds citizens’ forums at which interested residents chose one project, from three to four ideas chosen by the Town Council, and come up with concrete steps towards implementation. The forum will present its recommendations to the Town Council on Nov. 21, addressing locations for artwork, criteria to evaluate art proposals and ways to incorporate art in private developments.

As the first day of the forum gets going, town clerk Jocelyn Bronson, who runs the forum along with Marana’s Economic Development Specialist Heath Vescovi-Chiordi, hands out portfolios among the forum’s 26 delegates. 

The delegates vary in careers and background, from veterans and 

government employees to business executives and Avon representatives. Most are Marana citizens, some of whom have lived in the town for over a decade, others less than a year. Some have small kids, while others are retired, some said they joined the forum because they wanted something to do in retirement, like David Nelson. 

Nelson was a construction consultant, and he’s not particularly fond of retirement. He volunteers at the community food bank, and he heard about the forum and decided to give it a try.

The group shares reasons why they joined the forum. They bounce around ideas on what issues they’d like to address in Marana. And they laugh—a lot.

“I’m a firm believer in what I call ‘citizen engagement,’” said George Kennedy who’s been attending the forum for three years. “If you expect elected officials to work with you and for you, you have to help them help you.”

The Citizens’ Forum was born out of unique experiences and circumstance, town manager Gilbert Davidson said to the group. Before the forum, Marana had citizens’ commissions that addressed specific areas of town business.

“We began to realize life issues are not just in those silos,” Davidson said. “It usually involves a broader mindset” to tackle bigger issues, adding that the forum is a “radically different” approach to solving community issues and a way for local government to keep up with a rapidly changing world. 

At the forum are a few long-time participants, like Jim Shaw, who were involved when the forum was still separate committees.

“Committees were geared toward one department,” he said. “This encompasses all the departments and the town.”

All of the recommendations the forum has brought to the Town Council have come to varying degrees of fruition. 

The project that’s been the biggest struggle is getting all the zip codes changed to reflect being a part of Marana rather than Tucson. This goal has been a challenge because the U.S. Postal Service hasn’t exactly been cooperative, said Bronson, adding they’re working with Rep. Martha McSally to try and make inroads on the matter.

A new addition to how the Marana Police deal with distracted drivers was inspired by the forum’s ideas on public-safety education. Officers now have a handout they give to people caught texting while driving, reminding them why it’s not safe. They are currently working on how to further implement the forum’s recommendations on safety.

“What we put into our community is what we get out of it,” Davidson said. “This is your town. Marana’s a work in progress. We’re always evolving.”

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