CULLMAN – The David Mathews Center for Civic Life (DMC) held its first of three forums in the city of Cullman in efforts to increase civic engagement in the city as well as the state of Alabama. Tuesday night’s forum, held at the North Alabama Agriplex, started promptly at 5:30 and centered around where Cullman is today in order to lead into further forums on where Cullman wants to go and how will Cullman get there.
Participants in the forum ranged from concerned citizens to representatives of many local nonprofit organizations. Participants started the evening introducing themselves and stating what word best describes Cullman in their view. Such words included the following: dependable, caring, a place to raise a family, home, roots, honest, genuine and possibility.
The forum then preceded to its first question: “What factors have shaped Cullman to into what it is today?” Responses tended to focus on the impacts of Cullman being between two of the largest metropolitan areas in the state, Huntsville and Birmingham, in both positive and negative regards. Such positive responses included the influx of travelers and ease of access to larger stores in the larger cities; however, negative responses focused on young professionals leaving Cullman to work in the larger cities as well as the dwindling of the family farm as younger people are leaving the city to work in other areas besides agriculture.
The forum then shifted to “What in Cullman’s past would the community want to keep?” The responses were unanimous in regard to keeping the unique culture and traditions of Cullman alive and well for generations to come. Farmers in attendance wished that Cullman would keep its rich agricultural history and continue to carry the tradition of being the top producer in the state for certain agricultural goods.
Continuing on the issue of the economy and what Cullman wants, both farmers and individuals who would like to see more industry were able to agree that Cullman needs to have a more mixed economy where the local economy isn’t solely based on one extreme or the other so that the city can keep both the tradition of family farming alive and move forward into the 21st century and further in to the future.
The conversation then turned to issues that those in attendance would like to see addressed in the community. Representatives of Sacred Heart Church were present to address their concerns about the issues facing the growing Hispanic population in Cullman County. The representatives feel that Cullman needs to do more to help the growing Hispanic community by providing more interpreters for basic services and community-based charities. They would also like to see the community organizations relax their policies regarding residency and citizenship status of individuals asking for assistance.
Other issues that concerned citizens would like to see addressed are the quality of the roads in Cullman County, the disparity between the Cullman City Schools system and the Cullman County Schools system, the lack of public transportation and more political transparency, along with better political leadership overall at all levels of governance.
The next forum will focus on “What is your vision for the community?” and it will recap the points made by those in attendance at Tuesday’s forum. The date is not set for the next event, but the moderator of the Cullman events and Executive Director of the DMC, Cristian Brawner, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 205-665-9005 ext. 67.
For more information about the DMC, visit http://www.mathewscenter.org.
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