CDAG gets best practice tips; elects officers for 2010

The Central Delaware Advocacy Group today got hints on how to become more influential from another advocacy group, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

CDAG also elected officers for the new year.

Parks Alliance Executive Director Lauren Bornfriend told CDAG members that the road to relevance and influence has not been easy.

Relationships have to be built with City Council members – something that takes time and effort, she said.

Alliances have to be made with other organizations that have similar purposes.

Outreach must be strong to get as many members of the public involved with your organization as possible, Bornfriend said. But, she cautioned, don’t think that having big involvement will equal big donations.

Talking – within the group and to the public, press and politicians – is very important, Bornfriend said. But she remembers the turning point in her organization’s development as the time when it first made something happen on its own.

“It was spring of 2007, and for the first time ever, a group of citizens did inspections of parks,” she said.

Teams of citizens hit the city’s parks to note – and photograph – the conditions that existed. Among their findings: Restrooms that weren’t in working order, piles of debris and maintenance issues.  The results were bound into a report and presented at a public meeting held by the Alliance.

“This was us taking the reins,” she said. “We stopped talking and took action.”

That part of the discussion hit home for CDAG.  Just as the Alliance’s report critiqued the performance of city workers and officials that the Alliance must work closely with, so did a report card on the Central Delaware Waterfront Action Plan that CDAG planned to release last month, and then didn’t.

Some CDAG members and advisors had planned to release the progress report at a public meeting where the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation introduced finalists for the Master Plan consultant. Before the event started, they decided to hold off on the release when DRWC and city officials said they felt blindsided by the report.

At CDAG’s last meeting, members decided to revise the report card to make it clear that it is a progress report, and that some of the waterfront goals could not possibly be reached yet. The report card is expected to come out in coming weeks. The officials who felt blindsided said they wanted notice that it was coming out, but not the ability to revise it.

CDAG’s slate of officers remains mostly the same: Steven Weixler is chairman and Jeff Rush and Matt Ruben are vice chairmen. Marsha Bacal is treasurer.  Laura Lanza did not want to be secretary again. That job is now held by Joe Schiavo. Lanza had also been in the running for a vice chair slot, and Ruben was considered for chairman.

Posted by Kellie Patrick Gates. Contact her at

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