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Pittsfield Announces First 'Citizens Academy'
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
06:38AM / Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Executive Assistant Catherine Van Bramer announced the academy Tuesday night.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City government wants to engage residents more and will launch a 10-week "citizens academy" to learn about how local government works. 
 
The program is headed by the mayor's Executive Assistant Catherine Van Bramer. She said the program, starting in September, will bring a group of up to 20 citizens together for two-hour sessions to really get to know various aspects of government.
 
"Many times when we are talking to residents in the community we often find ourselves helping them navigate their government. We help them understand a variety of things. We help them learn how to report a streetlight out. How they obtain a birth certificate. How they have potholes filled. How they find out what activities are happening. How to start a new business or how to expand an existing one," Van Bramer said.
 
"The citizens academy is a way we can provide residents with an inside perspective into what local government is and an example of what we do on a daily basis."
 
Each session from 6 to 8 p.m. will focus on different departments. Van Bramer and a department head will essentially teach the class all about the services and work that department does. Van Bramer said the goals of the academy is to create stronger connections with residents, enhance the community's understanding of the services offered, increase participation in local government, and get more volunteers involved.
 
Applications will be available on June 1 and the deadline to apply is June 29. Van Bramer came up with the idea after going to a Massachusetts Municipal Association conference in which other communities had provided a similar program. 
 
"It is our hope to hold a citizens academy in Pittsfield on an annual basis," Van Bramer said.
 
At this point, she isn't sure how many people will want to participate. She hopes that there is more interest than the 20 spots available and if so, she would then develop criteria for who is chosen. Those who aren't selected will fall onto a waiting list to participate in the next one.
 
"I want to have a diverse range, age, gender, background. I want to make sure we're not particularly concentrating on one audience," Van Bramer said.
 
The plan got rave reviews from the City Council.
 
"I think it is great, anything we can do to engage our residents in government more," said Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi.
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