One of the barriers to being more engaged in community affairs is language, according to residents who gathered at a recent town meeting in Calistoga.
The Calistoga Community Conversation took place at the high school Nov. 21, and participants ranged from high school students and school officials, to parents, city council members, and retired individuals, with an almost even mix of Hispanics or Latinos and Caucasians.
The theme for the meeting was social inclusion, and was designed for residents to come together and have a discussion about community involvement. Questions included “What makes you feel like you are part of the community?” and “What are some barriers to participating in the community?”
Of the nearly 5,300 people who live in Calistoga, nearly half, 48 percent, are Hispanic or Latino, and 23 percent say they speak English “less than well,” according to an American Community Survey.
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Residents sat at tables in small groups and discussed the topic among themselves, then shared their responses with the rest of the room. Aside from the language barrier, most small groups reported that they found the community “friendly,” and in need of more activities for kids.
The event was sponsored by the Calistoga Community Schools Initiative and coordinated by UpValley Family Centers. It was led by Mayor Chris Canning in English, and the Family Center’s Program Director Indira López in Spanish.
Calistoga has previously tackled the issue of community inclusiveness in similar meetings. A couple of years ago, a community group of parents called Adelante emerged from just such a meeting. The group has met once a week, every week and succeeded in getting the city’s attention to invest in more recreational activities at Logvy Park. The result is a $400,000 investment —largely offset by grants — in playground equipment, bocce courts and a barbecue area at the park.
The Calistoga Community Schools Initiative is a collective impact partnership of 38 organizations in Calistoga that work with students and families in the school district. Napa County Public Health will be generating a report on responses from the meeting, that will be shared with the community.