CLINTON — Nearing the group’s 10-year anniversary, members of the Clinton Community Action Congress say they want to celebrate where they’ve been and look ahead to new opportunities.

As part of a roundtable discussion last week, CCAC members recalled the group’s humble beginnings and discussed a call to broaden horizons by expanding into Clinton County and also worldwide via a new Web site expected to be online in 2007.

CCAC Chairman James Law and the group’s founder, Dorothy Freund, don’t always agree on every issue, but they are on common ground when it comes to the group’s main goal.

“We want fair, accountable and transparent government,” Law said. For the most part, he explained, things run very well in Clinton. But the congress was founded to become a citizen advocacy group, a formal, organized voice for those who needed one.

“Most of the people haven’t got the mouth I’ve got,” Freund proclaimed to a round of chuckles from her peers. “They’re scared of their government.”

Other CCAC leaders include Helen Dodge, Donna Griswold, James’ father Larry Law, Dorothy’s husband Omer Freund, Bob Krajnovich and Floyd Neubauer. James Law said the leadership group has varied advocacy interests, including historic preservation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, taxpayers rights and the environment.

That diversity, he explained, is what gives the congress its power. By focusing on broad issues that affect many citizens and also by welcoming all points of view even if they differ from other members, the CCAC becomes a mixing pot of ideas, issues and ideals where all people are welcome.

“We have a love for this community and we want to see this city move forward,” Law said. “We can agree to disagree.”

Freund said the group started about 10 years ago when someone who wanted to start a waste collection business ran into problems at City Hall under then-City Administrator George Langmack.

Freund worked with now retired State Rep. Clyde Bradley to help with bylaws and used newspaper publicity to generate interest in meetings.

The group began meeting at the Clinton County Administration Building before moving to the Salvation Army headquarters, eventually setting on the Lyons Depot on 25th Avenue North. The Clinton Jaycees own the building, and Freund said the CCAC enjoys a good relationship with the Jaycees, with CCAC members donating food to the Jaycees’ annual picnics and holiday meals for senior citizens.

“We do a lot of good for the city that the city don’t really know about,” Freund said, although she acknowledged the group has been commended for its work by the mayor and governor. CCAC members have helped to support Character Counts!, downtown pocket park volunteers and the Clinton County Historical Society among others.

Law, who joined the group about a year ago, said the group feels there is a need for the CCAC’s influence throughout the county, especially since issues decided in Clinton can affect citizens elsewhere. Although the group’s Web site obviously will have a global audience, he said, there will be a county focus. Message boards will be offered, but they will be moderated, he explained.

Larry Law said one example of what the CCAC can do for people is to formally pose questions about issues that affect many people. He is concerned about the environmental impact of homes demolished recently in South Clinton. Without being accusatory, he explained, the group simply seeks an explanation of the process so everyone is aware of any ramifications.

James Law said the group is a bit concerned about how some former members used the congress as a vehicle for strong opposition to city action, including taking legal action to prevent certain decisions.

“We would like to see things mediated,” Law said, explaining that most issues the congress is concerned with are simply questions. Griswold said if government officials would do a better job of explaining things up front, many issues could be resolved without a public flare-up.

The group tentatively is planning a Nov. 15 10-year anniversary celebration at the Best Western Frontier and hopes to land a keynote speaker. But aside from celebrations, the group’s members remain focused on community priorities, like a city-owned police facility that welcomes community members.

They say the best sessions they’ve had have been special meetings where officials are invited to answer questions about issues. People like Clinton School District Superintendent Randy Clegg, Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy, Clinton Mayor LaMetta Wynn and Clinton City Attorney Matt Brisch have been guests, and CCAC members say all were gracious visitors, answering all manner of questions and explaining their positions without bias.

Meetings like those, members say, are the epitome of why the group exists.

“We’re nothing but one big family,” said Freund.

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