Croatian leaders check out Lima
By JIM SABIN
LIMA — A group of small-government leaders from Croatia spent about 24 hours in Lima, learning how the city involves members of the public in the governmental process.
The group was here through a program arranged by the Agency for International Develop-ment, and was studying with Dr. Mark Chupp, of the Unger Croatia Center at Cleveland State University.
The group spent two weeks in the United States, including Monday night and Tuesday morning in Lima.
“We chose Lima initially because of the Consolidated Plan,” Chupp said, referring to the city’s method of getting public input into the spending of Community Development Block Grant money. “It seemed a very good way to include citizens in the process.”
The group also learned about study circles conducted here, as well as Lima-Allen County Neighborhoods In Partnership and Common Threads activities.
Two of the visitors were mayors of their respective municipalities, or collections of townships that don’t quite form a city as we know it.
“What I like to hear, and what amazed me, was the level of volunteerism in Lima,” said Marija Mackovic, mayor of Jasenovac, through an interpreter.
Ana Savic, mayor of Majur, agreed.
“What I am really fascinated with, in a good way, is how the initiative comes from the citi-zens to participate in the betterment of the community,” Savic said through an interpreter. Many in Croatia don’t get involved, she said.
The women said their municipalities have groups similar to our neighborhood associations, though with different things to focus on, like sports or the elderly. Savic said she hopes to use information gained in Lima, particularly the dialogue methods employed by Common Threads, to help neighborhood groups get started.
“I will give that proposal to the citizens so that when they form associations, they know how to talk to each other,” Savic said. “It will hopefully motivate them to organize into associa-tions.”
The group attended a Lima City Council meeting Monday, and met with Lima Mayor David Berger and Common Threads leaders. Tuesday, the group met with LACNIP leaders at the Allen County Museum before leaving the city.
The group also included a newspaper reporter, Marina Protic of the Slobodna Dalmacija, in Split, Croatia.
“The local government here works more on motivating citizens to work for the common good,” Protic said through an interpreter. That could happen in Croatia, but doesn’t as often because the government, which has far more political parties, doesn’t usually want outside interference, she said.
“The framework is there. However, it seems that in Croatia, the local government is not having people involved,” she said. “It’s easier for the local government to do its work without citizens meddling around in it.”
Chupp said participants will draft an action plan for implementation when they return to Croatia later this week.