What a Difference a Year Makes

by Kathryn Bruner James

About a year ago, the members of Citizens for a Fair Ferndale (CFF) were considering packing it in. We wondered if our mission had perhaps been accomplished and there seemed to be little, if anything, left for us to do in an already progressive community that attracts and accepts people from all backgrounds and lifestyles. But our candidate forums and the Good Neighbors = Strong Community Awards were so enjoyed by many and seemed to serve a need that was different from what any other group was doing; so we decided to go on for at least another year or so and see how things went. On behalf of CFF, I must say that I am so glad that we decided to keep on trucking.

Since our last Ferndale Friends column, we’ve hosted another candidate forum, held a musical fundraiser at Club Bart, were nominated for the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce “Best of Ferndale” award, raised money for FernCare at a recent Bowl-a-thon, and we’re already gearing up for the next Good Neighbor Awards. The way I see it, there is plenty left for us to do that serves our mission and the community.

For example, CFF was able to meet the needs of Ferndale voters at a Candidate Forum on October 18 held at City Hall. The event was co-hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV), who have a long-standing history of holding such forums. CFF’s role is to essentially pick up where the LWV leaves off due to their somewhat limiting policies. In this election, as in many previous elections, the LVW handled virtually all aspects of the City Council candidates’ portion of the forum, and CFF was to handle the Library Board portion. There was evidently some confusion ahead of time as to whether Mayor Covey—who was running unopposed—would be able to participate. CFF, and apparently Mayor Covey himself, understood that the LWV would be addressing the mayoral election in some fashion. Alas, this turned out not to be the case. In the end, following the Council forum, CFF allowed Mayor Covey to field written questions from the audience for a period of time before the Library Board candidates had their turn. Granted, it was an awkward situation for me because I had to make some quick decisions on behalf of CFF and moderate a discussion that I had not prepared for, but I’m glad we did it. It has always been CFF’s policy to allow participation by unopposed candidates (as we did for the last School Board Candidate Forum) because it simply allows voters to receive information that they might not have otherwise received. Though, perhaps next time we will coordinate more closely with LWV so that the plan is more clearly understood and articulated from the get go. In fact, we will be revamping our forum policies in the near future in an effort to make this program a bit more formal and consistent. We look forward to hosting these forums for many elections to come.

So, what’s next for CFF? I’m glad you asked. Our next big event will be the Good Neighbors = Strong Community Awards (or just Good Neighbor Awards for short). If I’m not mistaken, this will be our fifth time recognizing members of the community who embody our mission. The event will take place sometime in April 2010, and very soon we will begin our call for nominations. Please watch our website (www.fairferndale.org) for the nomination forms to become available. In the meantime, CFF is pondering a possible change of venue. The Ferndale Elks Lodge has hosted us for the past three Good Neighbor Awards, and we have thoroughly enjoyed their hospitality (not to mention their affordable drink prices!). However, our event is growing in size, and we have also been struggling with the fact that the upper level of the Elks Lodge is inaccessible to the disabled—an obvious incongruity to our mission of inclusion. We will do our very best to find a Ferndale venue that suits our needs. Stay tuned for more info.

I also want to quickly note that I’m still figuring out how best to use this column to promote our mission. Obviously, this is a great opportunity to tell readers what CFF has done recently or what’s coming up, but we also want to use the column to educate readers, rather than simply promote events. To that end, I’ve been scouring the Ferndale Historical Society’s website (www.ferndalehistoricalsociety.org) for tidbits about our town that relate to the issues that concern CFF. Fun Fact: In 1935, Elizabeth Beasley became the first woman elected to Ferndale’s Board of Education. I hope to include in all future columns a “Fun Fact” about fairness and equality. Let me know if you have any facts to share!

Before this edition’s column ends, I’d like to extend my thanks on behalf of CFF to a few folks who have helped us out recently. The proprietors of Bubble and Bark sponsored our fundraiser at Club Bart in October, which featured live music by the Spangler/Tope Organ Trio. We owe huge thanks go to Bubble and Bark, Club Bart, R.J. Spangler, Ralph Tope, Dale Grisa, Joshua James and Francine Hachem for putting together this fun event and raising a little dough for CFF. The next time you take your dog to Bubble and Bark or grab a drink at Club Bart, please express your appreciation to the owners/managers for supporting CFF. We hope to put on similar events on a regular basis.

Our next meeting is December 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ferndale Library.

Originally published in Ferndale Friends, December 2009 Edition

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