Published on July 06, 2022 at 10:57 am
For community leaders, connecting with their young constituents offers a number of benefits and has the potential to create a generation of actively engaged citizens. Unfortunately, few public servants do not understand this or see the value in it.
That’s why Jim Thorpe Mayor Michael Sofranko deserves a round of applause for launching a recent listening session among borough youth to find out what they think of recreational opportunities and other activities.
The good news is that this was not a one-time event; there will be follow-ups, he said.
Obviously, the meeting attended by about 25 to 30 young people went better than expected.
The fact that they were willing to meet with the mayor and let a beautiful June night go by for a few hours showed their sincerity and interest. Sofranko was also pleased with the results, as it was peppered with a number of project suggestions that would be interesting.
The mayor said he came up with the idea because in discussions about what’s best for the community, few bother to ask his young people for their thoughts and concerns. He presented his idea of listening, which was approved and encouraged by the members of the borough council.
Adults were present during the listening session and, as adults sometimes tend to do, they started talking more often.
Sofranko politely told them that while he appreciated their contribution, he was there to listen to the children.
As an example of the many ideas that were put forward, two cited by Sofranko were a paddling pool and a BMX track for dirt bikes. As you can imagine, with the complexities of government and concerns about accountability in our litigious society, you don’t snap your fingers and suddenly things happen.
While searching the paddling pool, for example, Sofranko discovered that a lifeguard was needed, incredible as that may seem.
With many facilities struggling to get enough lifeguards to staff their pools, lakes, etc., such a task would not be easy to solve, but Sofranko said it was not dismissed. There may be alternatives, he says.
If there is a good idea, and it is humanly possible to carry it out within the budgetary constraints of the borough or thanks to the availability of other sources of funding, including grants, the idea will remain on the table. .
Other ideas included a skate park, swimming pool, rock wall, zipline and indoor arcade.
Sofranko said he was very pleased with the number of ideas presented during the listening session, and then supplemented by written suggestions he received afterwards.
Sofranko said coordinating with three community groups will be an important way to try to get things done.
“We will review the ideas presented and list which ones we definitely want to pursue, which ones are possibilities and which ones are beyond our means,” he said.
I find Sofranko’s idea so refreshing and promising that I recommend other communities adopt it as well, but I’m happy to report that Sofranko is one step ahead of me.
He spoke about the listening session at the last meeting of the Carbon County Association of Mayors and was pleased that at least three mayors expressed interest in starting similar ideas in their boroughs.
For Sofranko, one of the most interesting takeaways is the realization that children want to be outdoors, not always glued to their phones and device screens playing computer and other games indoors. .
“And that impresses me, because we hear so often that kids just want to be on their phone, and while that’s the case for some, it doesn’t speak for all,” Sofranko said.
By Bruce Frassinelli | firstname.lastname@example.org
The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.