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Sun., April 2, 2006

Civic contributor nominations are open

Noticed the joggers?

They’re popping up along the roadsides as fast as the crocus and daffodils. And not simply because it’s spring and the earth is thawing and the air no longer cracks when you bump into it. As anyone familiar with the Spokane area knows, Bloomsday is coming and the Bloomies are tuning up.

The 2006 running will be the community fun run’s 30th, and it will draw tens of thousands of runners, some from distant corners of the world. In a story last Tuesday, reporter Hillary Kraus reminded us of something that tends to get overlooked: Bloomsday, like any community tradition, had a beginning.

So did the recent Chase Youth Awards, which, coincidentally, have also been around for three decades.

Each year that these and other community celebrations endure and grow we marvel at the levels of energy and participation they inspire. But we spend less time thinking about how and why they got started.

In Bloomsday’s case, as Kraus’s story laid out, a chance elevator meeting between then-Mayor David Rodgers and former Olympic marathoner Don Kardong sparked the vision of a Boston Marathon-like run through the streets of Spokane. But it started out with 1,200 hardy souls – or 2,400 hardy soles.

Think of it. Two people in an elevator, filling the time between floors with spontaneous chatter. And all because of that, 30 years later people all over the Inland Northwest and beyond are rising at dawn, lacing up their Nikes and loping out along High Drive or Government Way.

What’s true of something as big as Bloomsday or the Chase Youth Awards or Hoopfest is true of other things as mundane as a neighborhood cleanup effort or a food drive and an endless array of grassroots enterprises that give a community its personality. People make it happen. People make them all happen.

People – thousands of them, pursuing their respective convictions, applying their individual talents – scoop up the raw material and shape the contour of what their city or region or neighborhood is to be.

Which is why – yes, there is a point to this – The Spokesman-Review wants to shine a light on community members who invest themselves in making the region a better place to live.

Last year the editorial board invited readers to help us select a citizen contributor who made a notable difference in 2005. There were many people to consider from throughout Spokane and Kootenai counties and our surrounding circulation area, but 2005 was an unusual year and one person stood out. On Jan. 1 we announced Shannon Sullivan as our citizen contributor of the year. She’s the single mom whose outrage of Spokane Mayor Jim West’s disreputable behavior inspired her to launch a recall drive and fight her way through the courts so Spokane voters could have the final say. Sullivan was a fitting person to honor, as recognized by many readers who nominated her

We’re going to repeat the project in 2006, but with a refinement.

Different people make civic contributions in different ways, and it’s hard to evaluate the results head to head. So there will be five categories this year:

“Citizen activist. Call them volunteers, if you wish. They’re the ones who find time and effort outside their normal activities to take on extra projects.

“Business person. Yes, it’s OK to do good works at the same time you are making a buck, or even lots of bucks. The important part is that you demonstrate a dedication to the community’s best interest.

“Government. Politics and bureaucracy aren’t the dirty words some people make them out to be. In the right hands they can be a noble undertaking.

“Non-profit. Some work is too big for individuals but outside the realm of government. Communities wither without vibrant non-profit organizations to fill the gap.

“Lifetime achievement. While the theme of the project suggests we’re confining ourselves to the 2006 calendar year, it’s impossible to ignore the cumulative impact that comes from year after year of dedication. We’ll acknowledge those career accomplishments, too.

What would you call the kind of people who rise to this level of community spirit? People who promote the common interest with uncommon effort? We call them “uncommoners,” and when the end of the year rolls around, we’ll have five names and five sets of achievements to share with you.

In the meantime, it’s only fitting to enlist the community in an effort to celebrate community contributions. You’re invited to submit the names of people you consider uncommoners. Identify the category you think is most appropriate and describe what the person has done that’s outstanding. You can mail your suggestions to Citizen Call, c/o Opinion page, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA 99201, or e-mail them to

Now, get out there and shape up for Bloomsday.

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