Last month I wrote about my impressions at the start of the Flinn-Brown Fellowship program. One month later, I can say it is one of the most worthwhile programs I have ever undertaken.
Over the past eleven sessions, we have learned about the Arizona State Government and the politics and policies that make it tick from the people who actually run it. While the sessions have been non-partisan, they have certainly included examinations of the political considerations and ideologies behind some of the policy decisions that affect Arizonan’s lives every day.
The list of speakers can be found on the website linked below so I will not go over each one. Seldom does the average Arizonan get to publicly question – and get public responses from – state officials and political leaders such as the Governor’s Chief of Staff, or the Director of the State Land Trust (or, as she calls herself, the “Girl Who Controls 9.5 Million Acres”). We heard from the Directors of almost every major state agency, as well as both the Speaker of the State House and the House Minority Leader – sharing the stage and answering our questions together.
Two former legislators – a Republican and a Democrat – monitored each session, and we were able to ask the guest speakers any questions we wanted. Other than being civil, we were not prohibited from asking for the details, and yes, we mostly got those details. The format was open and candid. We were able to meet with multiple policymakers, leaders, or experts in a variety of areas, but certainly focused on education, healthcare, social services, water, and the justice system. We engaged with them for hours and had meaningful two-way conversations that were sometimes adversarial, but always cordial. At the end of each day, we then took about an hour to go over what we had heard with our two moderators, the former legislators, and that is where the opinions and analysis really took place. Since the class represented a well-blended cross-section of the political spectrum, the perspectives were varied and often surprising. It was common for participants to have their minds changed based on the information we had received that day – and that was the entire point of the program.
More than anything else, what this Fellowship program is meant to do is present citizens with the facts about our state government directly from the people who are leading and affecting it, so that we can then form our own better-informed opinions and analysis of those facts. It has done this very successfully. This experience was completely free of charge. It was funded by a partnership of the Flinn Foundation, and the Thomas Brown Foundation – the participants did not pay for a thing, and neither did the taxpayers. Even our hotel rooms and mileage was paid. The program is open to any Arizona resident who is thinking about serving our state at some level, and there are no academic or professional qualifications, but the process is competitive. Next month, I will discuss the results of that opinion and analysis of our government, based on what I have learned. It may not be what you think.
For more information, or for directions on how to apply for this program, please visit: http://azcivicleadership.org/flinn-brown-civic-leadership-academy/