Five Bradenton finalists have made it to the finals of this year’s Knight Foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge.
There was only one Bradenton finalist in last year’s challenge with no local winners. In the challenge’s first year, Realize Bradenton was one of the winners with its Pop Ups for Purpose campaign.
Of the five projects selected this year for a possible portion of the Knight Foundation’s annual $5 million prize, Simone Peterson has secured two finalist positions. Peterson, who works for Manatee County’s Neighborhood Services, submitted projects called Bradenton Champions and iAMBradenton.
Bradenton Champions conceptualizes ways to connect people from different backgrounds who love the city and want to pursue projects to enhance the city, but aren’t sure how to reach their final goal.
“There’s people out there in the community who have great ideas but aren’t sure how to get them off the ground,” Peterson said. “Bradenton Champions is kind of like an incubator of ideas of different people with different expertise. For example, someone may have a cool idea about a new festival or something for children, but maybe they don’t know about marketing.”
iAMBradenton encourages greater civic engagemet, but finds unique ways to do it.
“A lot of people don’t come to government meetings or if they do, it’s always the same faces,” Peterson said. “Whether it’s using social media or finding people in unconventional areas like a group of neighbors sitting in lawn chairs under a tree or big hubs like the mall or even at bus stops, to try and get their opinions.”
Using the bus stop as an example, Peterson said it could include providing an informational center about an upcoming county project that would allow people waiting for a bus to input their decisions, or perhaps developing an electronic application.
“The Manatee County Millennial Movement would spearhead that effort,” Peterson said. “It’s also a hands-on approach where we can get out of the office and go and talk to people for better connectivity.”
Realize Bradenton staff scores two finalist spots
The annual challenge operates on three principles when submitting ideas. They include ways to keep talented people in the city, opportunities for growth and finding ways to create better civic engagement. Last year’s only finalist was Realize Bradenton Community Engagement Coordinator Catherine Ferrer. She has made it back to the finals with her project, Encounter: Recreating Courthouse Square as a Plaza.
Ferrer envisions using the courthouse square as a Latin America-themed pop-up plaza to weave people, place, memory, commerce, culture and generations together.
“Fortunately, first-hand knowledge of plazas abounds in our community from the thousands of Hispanic/Latino immigrants who grew socializing there,” Ferrer said. “Students research plazas and interview these local experts, immigrant family members neighbors, bodega owners, who share their experiences of plazas.”
Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham returns to the finals with her project: the Creative Garage, A Maker Take Over. Realize Bradenton is involved in the design of the proposed new city parking garage in downtown that will feature ground-floor retail as an expansion of Old Main Street.
Isham said Realize Bradenton will convene interested parties, “to shape the possibilities of making the new city garage an arts, retail and even performance destination.”
How to run for political office
Bradenton’s fifth finalist is Stephen Boyes, whose project title says it all: How to Run for Office. Boyes’ concept is to encourage more people to run for local office by creating a nonpartisan curriculum that trains and educates citizens on how to seek office.
The finalists now are tasked with submitting a more detailed proposal to the Knight Foundation that includes financing feasibility and long-term sustainability.
In all, there were 144 finalists representing the 26 cities where Knight Ridder used to own newspapers. In all, there were some 4,500 submissions for the 2017 Knight Challenge.