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Tuesday, July 19, 2005 | We all have a stake in the coming mayoral election. Envision San Diego – a unique media-driven forum for citizen engagement – will launch its second year of programming starting July 21 with an intensive two-hour look at our candidates for this important office.

On July 21, NewsChannel 15 and KPBS will broadcast a two-hour debate and discussion with mayoral candidates Steve Francis, Donna Frye, Richard Rider, Jerry Sanders, Pat Shea and Myke Shelby. Gloria Penner of KPBS will moderate the debate and three reporters, including 10News Reporter Thom Jensen, will pose questions to the candidates.

Following the debate at 7 p.m., there will be a town hall meeting, moderated by 10News Anchor Hal Clement, where the public will have the opportunity to question the candidates, and the candidates will be able to respond to each other. This program will be presented in partnership with KPBS, NewsRadio AM 600, SignOnSanDiego.com and KOGO, which will be rebroadcasting the entire event on radio.

We will of course be talking about how we get the city out of the mess it’s in; but more, about what kind of leader we need to move us all forward as a region to meet the challenges we face in this new, uncertain, global economy.

Syndicated columnist Neil Pierce, the author of Citistates, a well-documented treatise on the future of our communities, has often said that “cities of the future” are not cities at all in the usual sense; rather, they are regions. San Diego – the city – is in deep financial and, some might argue, spiritual trouble. So too is our entire region.

All of us living or working in the greater San Diego region need to be involved. Mayor Murphy’s resignation offers San Diegans the opportunity to take back their government and help shape the region’s future rather than simply leave it to the whim of the electoral process.

Envision San Diego: The Creative Community, launched in March 2004 by San Diego State University President Stephen Weber, was mindful that changes in our global economy were likely to have a dramatic impact on life and work in our region and that our goal was to attract, retain and nurture the creative and innovative work force our high-tech and biotech community most needs. What was unclear, however, was where to begin; how to prioritize all that needed to be accomplished, and how to organize the effort itself.

In making the announcement, Weber said simply that Envision “is designed to enhance citizen awareness of and commitment to solving major public policy issues affecting the development of the region” and that “it will do this through a combination of in-studio programs, neighborhood-based online discussions and town hall meetings.”

Although seen by some as yet another forum for civic engagement, Envision San Diego is not intended to duplicate the work of any existing forum, group or organization. To the contrary, created by KPBS, SignOnSanDiego.com and SDSU’s International Center for Communications, Envision is now a media partnership of almost 20 media and journalistic enterprises. Collectively, the goal of Envision is to cover issues of major public importance to the future of this region, and to engage our citizens in a community-wide dialogue leading to meaningful reform.

Over the last year Envision media have held several regional town hall meetings and produced over fifty radio and television shows. The Envision media partnership is working to provide a missing link and a model for the debate and discussion in communities across the country that are trying to reinvent themselves for the new, global knowledge economy and society. Through these efforts – on air, online and in print – we are, as a community, closer to understanding our future and the challenges before us. But much remains to be done.

In year two, Envision will undoubtedly talk about the connections between art, culture and business and economic development, and importantly, what we need to do to literally transform our entire educational system to meet the worldwide challenge before us. Basic infrastructure needs such as housing and transportation are also crying out for attention. With the city in dire financial condition however, so too is the immediate need for a solution to the pension deficit and for reform of the governing process itself.

What do we – the citizens of the greater San Diego region – need to do to take ownership of the future of our community?

To learn more about Envision San Diego: The Creative Community or to support this effort, visit www.envisionsandiego.org.

John M. Eger is the Van Deerlin chair of Communication and Public Policy and executive director of the International Center for Communications at SDSU.

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