Moving Jeff City ForwardSeptember 16, 2014
Last night, the City Council of the City of Jefferson, Missouri, finally reached their final vote on a proposal to create a Public Transit Advisory Committee. A community group, Citizens for JeffTran, first proposed the idea for the citizen committee in the spring of 2013. Other groups, such as Faith Voices for Jefferson City, joined the advocacy effort. After more than a year of some City Council members stalling and even criticizing the proposal, the council finally started taking the matter seriously the past few months.
I spoke in favor of the effort during a City Council meeting in June. After that session, which included a strong group of speakers representing the business, education, social work, and faith communities, the City Council started to act. Even then it took about three months to work through the bureaucratic steps. After a year-and-a-half of advocacy, the City Council finally reached its final vote on the proposal last night - and it was a unanimous vote in favor!
The City of Jefferson needs a more vibrant public transportation system, especially since the buses do not run on evenings or weekends. In fact, people who need public transportation can't even make it to City Council meetings since the routes all stop long before the meetings. Not only are people relying on public transportation disenfranchised from their local government, but their absence means their voice might not be heard on the matter.
Fortunately, some churches stepped up to help fix the problem created by the City Council. Both First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Church used their buses to get people to and from several City Council meetings. Throughout the process, Christian clergy and laypeople played an active role in advocating for the committee. Ministers spoke on behalf of the committee proposal and made announcements in churches to encourage members to speak out.
Living out biblical teachings means engaging in community advocacy. Thus, the three-pronged share hope emphasis by Churchnet involves relational evangelism, congregation ministry, and community advocacy. All three are needed for a holistic gospel. Sometimes, our calling is to speak truth to power.
With the Public Transit Advisory Committee now becoming a reality, the focus must switch to recommending people to serve (who will be chosen by the mayor) and then helping them push the City Council for a more vibrant public transit system. Citizens for JeffTran won't be shutting down anytime soon, nor will Faith Voices for Jefferson City quit advocating on the issue of public transportation. Instead, the groups should feel empowered by the success in moving an issue from facing heavy opposition to unanimous passage.
Advocating with and for those in our community who need public transportation remains a need in our community. I'm glad the mayor and City Council members have been listening, and pray they will continue to do so. Hopefully we can not only move JeffTran forward, but also move Jeff City forward.