Sunday, February 8, 2009

Social capital is alive and much needed in Plainfield

Last Thursday I attended a meeting of Friends of Sleepy Hollow (FOSH). When I arrived at the Plainfield Public Library for the meeting I was pleased to see that other community oriented activities were happening in full force. I stepped into the main meeting room downstairs only to find the literacy volunteers organizing an all out attack to promote basic reading skills of local residents. In another room a group of church members were strategizing on a search for a new minister. When I was directed next door, I was surprised to find, not FOSH but the League of Women Voters Board meeting. Finally I found the right meeting.

My evening at the library demonstrates what is good about Plainfield. Dedicated citizens working together to improve the community. In contrast to staying home watching television, we have social connectedness of the best kind, teams of people working for the common good.

According to Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone", the term social capital originated in the early 1900s when the state superintendent of West Virginia schools wrote that it meant " coming into contact with neighbors so there is an accumulation of social capital which may satisfy individual social needs and have potential to improve living conditions in the whole community".

What does it look like in Plainfield:
  • parents at a PTA meeting
  • citizens speaking at a City Council meeting
  • healthy attendance at Plainfield High School boys basketball games (by the way, we are ranked 4th in the state)
  • a full house at church services on Sunday

Social capital can be for destructive causes as well. Gangs and the Ku Klux Klan are examples. So social scientists distinguish between kinds of social capital with bridging and bonding being the most beneficial kinds. We certainly need more of both in Plainfield.

The need for bridging was illustrated Thursday at the four library meetings. There was a good mix of male and female, young and less young, black and white. Not many Hispanic residents in attendance though.

The presence of gangs is a clear indicator for lack of positive social capital. In its absence young people create their own. The solution can't be just increased law enforcement. It needs to be more adult role models, mentors, a stronger role for educators in children's lives and job opportunities.

Today I attended a meeting of the Hillside Avenue Neighborhood Watch. At the meeting, Herb Green, a passionate advocate for Plainfield children, urged residents to get involved with the local school, Evergreen School. Bob Chanda urged the Public Safety Director to create volunteer opportunities for citizens at the new video surveillance center when it is up and running. These volunteer actions are not just cost saving measures. They will increase buy in for good causes and the interconnectedness of all Plainfield stakeholders.


Anonymous said...

"Young and less young" You are so kind, Councilman! This is what I love about our city as well. Thank you for your wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Stick to your flailing New Democratic script, and leave the sociological deductions to real social scientists.. otherwise you are looking even more embarrassing and ignorant.

Thanks Cory

Anonymous said...

Hi Cory,

I just read the rude message that was left to you.

Please know that regardless of whatever label, New, Old, or Regular Democrat, your blog has much truth. Only those ones who are afraid to truly unite our community will continue to use labels to divide our community.

Also know that you have many people, from all walks of life and all different labels, supporting you.

Maria Pellum