February 23, 2015

Project will examine levee policies

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- “Civic Soul,” a new project of SIU Carbondale’s Imagining Geographies, will launch Friday, Feb. 27, during a community event at Shawnee High School.

Working in collaboration with local leaders, project organizers invite the public to discuss additional policy and action options designed to convince legislators and government officials at the local, state and national levels to advance policies that take into account the short- and long-term needs of residents living alongside the deteriorating levees.

The high school is in Wolf Lake, off of Illinois Highway 3.

The event begins at 4 p.m. with a premier screening of “Save the Levees, Save the Future,” a video created by Shawnee High School and SIU students.  Shawnee social science teacher Jamie Nash-Mayberry said this most recent effort in her students’ award-winning, four-year Deteriorating Levee Awareness Campaign, explains to county, state and federal government officials, as well as the general public, why funds are needed to repair levees that stretch from Grand Tower to near Cairo. 

In the second segment of the event, Associate Professor Silvia Secchi, who researches and teaches SIU students about environmental policies, will facilitate a discussion of issues raised in the video, as well as other concerns and dilemmas facing residents of the “Bottoms,” as local residents refer to life along the Mississippi floodplain. Other discussion participants invited by Civic Soul include John Jackson, visiting professor with SIU’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute; SIU floodplain researcher Professor Nicholas Pinter, and Nash-Mayberry.  They will also propose additional actions to advance citizen engagement in policy discussions. 

In the third segment, audience members will have an opportunity to discuss the policy and action options proposed.

Civic Soul will record and post a video of Friday’s meeting on the Imagining Geographies website -- www.imagining.siu.edu -- along with informative resources about the issues and policies discussed. 

Peter Lemish, faculty member in SIU’s School of Journalism, is the producer of Civic Soul and facilitator of Imagining Geographies. He explained that the aim of Civic Soul’s event in Wolf Lake, along with three other upcoming events on different issues, is to experiment with a new way for the media to advance citizen involvement in policymaking.

“It is rare that we have a chance to broadcast and view citizens in discussion about issues of direct concern to them in a public forum,” he said. 

Residents of the region are welcome to participate in Friday’s community meeting. For more information, contact Lemish at 618/534-3989 or peterlemish@siu.edu.