CHAMPAIGN — It was not written under the most promising of circumstances, but Champaign City Council members on Tuesday said they were excited about a new community action plan designed to "connect the dots" and create opportunities for young people.
The plan, they said, is a victory for the city in what have been trying times for some parts of the community.
"We have issues; we have setbacks," said council member Will Kyles. "But we have victories. We in Champaign are defiant people."
The plan city officials unveiled Tuesday night was written with direct feedback they received during a March 2010 community forum, which was attended by about 300 people wanting to comment on the state of the city. The forum was only several months after 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington was shot and killed by Champaign police.
The plan, "Walk as One: A Community Moving Forward Together," focuses on ways to improve the relationship between police officers and citizens and on how to create opportunities for young people.
Kyles recalled challenges to that relationship over the years but said he hopes the plan can change the storyline. He said it is easy for community members to get fired up about the negatives, but the plan is something positive to be excited about.
"We must allow ourselves to fall into a new category," Kyles said. "We must change the conversation."
City officials hope to involve all kinds of community organizations in promoting healthy relationships and opportunities for young people. On Tuesday night, they launched a new website where they hope those groups can come together: champaigncommunitycoalition.org.
Council member Karen Foster said she was excited, too, but reminded representatives that not all of the new initiatives will be free.
"I think something we need to remember as a council is, sometimes we may need to have funding for these programs and initiatives that are before us," Foster said.
Several council members used the word "excited"; Kyles even said he was "giddy."
Tuesday night's presentation is the culmination of two years' worth of planning with various community leaders. But with the council's unanimous approval, Deputy City Manager for Community Relations Joan Walls said the real work starts Wednesday morning.
"That's getting the citizens involved," Walls said.