Kentucky Center for Public Issues
The Kentucky Center for Public Issues (KCPI) works to actively participate in shaping Kentucky's public agenda by providing credible information and creating new forums for meaningful citizen dialogue and action regarding Kentucky's public affairs. In 1990 Rona conducted focus groups aimed at learning how Kentuckians believe democracy is faring in the state and in the nation. Rona invited selected groups of civic and community leaders from Paducah to Prestonsburg (if you're not from Kentucky, that means from West to East, and all the parts in between) to consider together the condition of democracy, based on their experiences. The participants drew grim pictures of democracy at the national level; their views of democracy at the state level were nearly as bleak. When they talked about their own communities, however, the tone changed remarkably. Participants described the many ways people in their communities take charge and shape the kinds of communities they want. Even with regard to elected officials and electoral politics, participants spoke with more optimism about the local level. Essentially, they asserted, people can have the kinds of communities they want, provided they work for them.
In one of these groups, a participant suggested that the practice of democracy in her community was weaker than it should be because people had too few opportunities to make choices and decisions when they were young. She said that the experience of making choices needs to begin when students enter pre-school, if not before. Her passionately stated comments made a strong impression on Rona, whose abiding interest in the phenomena of choice and responsibility dates to that moment.
Also for KCPI, Rona organized a public symposium on campaign finance reform that served as a way for opinion leaders, decision makers, substantive experts, and citizens to work toward consensus on needed reforms. Rona advised a design group on the structure of statewide town meetings aimed at developing a vision for Kentucky's future. She also designed and helped produce a public conference aimed at strengthening democracy in Kentucky.
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