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Archive for Sunday, February 17, 2002

Proclamation ritual recognizes gamut of good causes

February 17, 2002

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The year 2001 in Lawrence started with "Dr. Martin Luther King Week." It ended with "Lawrence Home Care Month."

In between, the city saw 47 other special days, weeks and months  including "Mathematics Awareness Month," "Drinking Water Week" and "Breastfeeding Awareness Week."

Most meetings of the Lawrence City Commission start with such proclamations by the mayor and commission.

"I think it's an important function," Mayor Mike Rundle said. "I've always believed in community rituals."

The groups that receive  and in fact initiate  the honors say the proclamations are important.

"It makes us feel special," said Midge Grinstead, director of the Lawrence Humane Society, which annually gets the city to declare a "Be Kind to Animals Week."

"And," she said, "it lets the community know there are things we're doing that are worth recognition."

City Manager Mike Wildgen said the city receives numerous requests to issue proclamations, but only honors them if there is a local supporter willing to be part of the process.

Once a local supporter gets on board, few requests for proclamations are turned down.

"It's pretty rare," Wildgen said. "If they're asking the city to take a position, instead of recognition, we shy away from those."

Most proclamations are initiated by groups that want recognition for their various projects or causes.

Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center was behind last year's "Mental Health Month" in May.

"First of all, we want the community to know what we're doing," said Pat Roach Smith, the center's community development director. "Second of all, we want our commissions to sanction the importance of the idea."

And it works, Grinstead said. Some visitors to a Humane Society open house last year said they dropped by because they heard the event discussed at a city commission meeting where the proclamation was made.

Already in 2002, Rundle has made another King proclamation and declared Jan. 28 to Feb. 16 as "Read Across Lawrence Weeks."

"If there was any higher volume (of proclamations) than there is, I'd recommend something I saw in Los Angeles," Rundle said.

There, Rundle said, instead of making proclamations at the beginning of council meetings, the city sets aside a special meeting each month solely to issue proclamations.

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