Citizens Academy gives a look at local government

CARLSBAD — Residents are headed back to class with Carlsbad’s popular Citizens Academy program to get an in-depth look at local government and city departments.
The free, seven-week course recently launched its fall session to familiarize residents with every aspect of the city’s inner workings, from the police and fire departments to parks and recreation.
“It’s a great way for the citizens to feel that they know and understand their city’s government,” volunteer coordinator Sue Irey said. “There’s a lot going on and a lot to learn about.”
Each week, participants are introduced to various city departments and the respective staff leaders. Brief presentations on each service are followed by question and answer sessions and facility tours, Irey said.
“Citizens really enjoy that they are able to ask questions of all the staff,” Irey said. “They pass out their cards so residents can call them any time with any questions.”
Citizens Academy students are also introduced to the leaders of Carlsbad’s city government — Mayor Claude “Bud” Lewis and the current City Council members. The course ends with a council question and answer session and council meeting role-play exercises.
Highlights of the program include a three-hour bus tour around the city and equipment demonstrations. The fire and police department demonstrations are also very popular, Irey said.
“The fire department does a mock fire and the police do a demo with their tasers, stun guns and K-9 units,” Irey said. “It’s amazing.”
Carlsbad has been hosting the well-received program since 2001, with an estimated 1,000 residents graduated from the course. Courses are held in the fall and spring and it is currently in its 20th session.
The Citizens Academy syllabus is loosely based on courses offered by other cities, with specific content based on what program coordinators thought residents would be most interested in learning, Irey said.
“It’s a very well put together program,” participant John Batista said. “I already volunteer with the city but I’ve been on the sidelines for most of it, now I’m able to get the background information.”
To participate in the program, applicants must be Carlsbad residents and at least 18 years of age. While the fall session is currently under way, the city is now accepting applications for the upcoming spring run that is expected to fill up quickly.
Log on to www.carlsbadca.gov or call the Citizens Academy hotline at (760) 434-2800 to find out more about the program and apply.

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