In looking for histories of the idea of a ‘civic federation’ it appears that the idea took hold at the turn of the last century, during the late-19th and early-20th centuries.  One of the best known civics was begun in Chicago, that city of great ideas—and big shoulders.  It was the Civic Federation of Chicago, whose goal was to “to focus the new ideals of civic cooperation and social efficiency on the task of renovating Chicago society.”  That Civic Federation developed into the National Civic Federation, which was instrumental in the development and passage of child labor laws and workers on-the-job safety.

In England the Civic Movement began in the 1840s, according to the website of the CivicVoice, at civicvoice.org.uk.  According to their website,

“Civic societies can be provocative, stubborn, forceful, inspiring and outspoken on behalf of the places they care about. They are fiercely independent and grassroots organisations, often providing the grit in the oyster which stimulates people to think, reconsider and widen their horizons. They will celebrate and encourage positive action and be forthright in resisting damaging change. They are also a store of knowledge and expertise about local places which is an essential starting point in recognising and strengthening their identity.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Our own Montgomery County Civic Federation has as its mission, according to our Charter in the By-laws, “to provide a single county-wide organization to promote cooperation, education, and effectiveness of civic and community associations to bring about civic and social betterments.”

And the sole objective of the Federation, again per our By-laws, “shall be to protect and enhance the Quality of Life for current and future residents of the County. To this end it shall:

a. devise ways and means for the promotion of the civic community and general welfare of the County.

b. carry on educational, benevolent, and beneficial programs and activities.

c. monitor and evaluate activities of local government to assure an open, accountable,

responsive, and effective performance.

d. cooperate with other organizations of like purposes in other jurisdictions.”

Through the years the Civic Fed has been an active participant in county government and an advocate for civic organizations and improving our quality of life and pushing to make our elected officials more responsive to the residents of the County.

As many of you know, Civic Federation leaders were instrumental in developing and passing our Home Rule Charter, which was approved by the voters in 1948 after lengthy debate and fierce arguments.  The adoption of the Charter allowed for the Council form of government, and Montgomery County was the first in the state to do so.  One of our past presidents, Julius Unverzagt Hoke, was instrumental in the successful lawsuit that resulted in the 1964 Supreme Court decision Maryland Committee for Fair Representation v. Tawes, The resulting decision required Maryland to realign legislative districts to in line with the population.

Each year residents step forward to do the people’s work in the County and fulfill our Federation objective.

The Civic Fed recognizes the hard work they do and the hundreds of labor hours they volunteer to protect their friends and their neighborhoods with our Community Hero awards, and with the three awards we present at our Annual Awards Banquet.

If you know of a volunteer organization, or individual, who has gone above and beyond this year, please let us know and nominate them for one of our awards.  With these awards we recognize the unusual individuals who step up, speak out, and persist, even through name-calling and mud-slinging.  They are there through thick and thin, and, with their fellow activists, keep at it.

And this year we are celebrating our 90th Anniversary.  Please join us for our Annual Awards Banquet this May.  We promise an extra-special banquet with wonderful company and sterling awardees.  Stay tuned to our newsletter and website for information on time, place and how to purchase tickets. We look forward to seeing you there for this special occasion.

The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect formal positions adopted by the Federation.  To submit an 800-1,000 word column for consideration, please send an email attachment to montgomerycivic@yahoo.com.

 

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