DANBURY, Conn. -- How does the City of Danbury operate? What is the job of the mayor? Who is involved with making decisions on the city's budget?
These questions and more were addressed last week as about 20 people convened at the first session of the Danbury Citizens Government Academy.
"The purpose of the program is to get citizens more engaged in their community," said Austin Samuelson, special assistant to the mayor.
The academy is free and held Wednesday evenings at the City Hall's Council Chambers. It is a seven-session workshop where participants get an inside look at the day-to-day operations of the City of Danbury. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton leads the academy, which runs through Oct. 19.
"The class gives insight on the day-to-day process of how the city operates and really shows residents where their tax money is being put," Samuelson said.
Throughout the program, heads of various city departments will speak about their job responsibilities, including Roger Palanzo in the Office of Economic Development, Town Clerk Janice Giegler and Parks and Recreation Director Nicholas Kaplanis.
Also, participants will tour city facilities such as the fire department, police station and public works department.
The program, which began in 2014, is usually offered twice a year.
Participants will become more familiar with the structure of Danbury's government, enhance their ability to communicate effectively with city officials and may even become interested in volunteering for the city.
Graduates of the program receive a Citizens Government Diploma.
At the first session of the academy, Boughton gave a lesson on how the city works, speaking about forms of government and explaining that Danbury operates on what is called a strong mayor form of government. "Unlike other cities that have a weak mayor form of government, in a strong mayor form of government, the role of the Danbury mayor has a lot of impact on the community in which you live," he said.
He explained there are 21 members of the city council, with representatives of the seven wards, with 12,000 to 14,000 people per ward.
Boughton meets with the City Council on the first Tuesday of each month in the Council Chambers. Meetings are broadcast on Comcast Television's Channel 23 at 7:30 p.m.
"You must be a resident or taxpayer of the City of Danbury to address the City Council," Boughton said, adding that city council members are volunteers. The City Council approves and adopts ordinances that the mayor proposes.
Each member of the City Council serves for two years. "They are up for re-election in 2017. The mayor also serves for two years," he said, adding, "We run as a team.
"We have over a dozen city commissions. We are always looking for people who want to volunteer and get involved," Boughton said.
He said each spring he meets with members of the City Council to deliberate on the city budget, which totals $240 million.
Danbury has 13 volunteer firehouses spread out across the city. This stemmed, he said, from the many hat factories that formerly existed in Danbury. The hat factories were always catching fire, he said.
Anyone interested in signing up for the Danbury Citizens Government Academy can call 203-797-4511. A few spots may remain in the current session.
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