Citizen Action Monitor

Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities (CCEC)

No 3 Posted by fw, March 30, 2010

Photo by Gray Simpson from the CCEC website

Could it be that the citizens of Chatham, in southwestern Ontario, have vaulted their fair city to the top of the heap as an exemplar of citizen action? ‘Tis devoutly to be wished, for it might spur the citizens of nearby municipal laggards like Windsor to get their act together and follow Chatham’s lead.

Alas, no such luck. For the Chatham in this story is a county, not a city. And it’s a county in North Carolina, not Ontario.

This good news story begins with a grass roots citizen action group started by four neighbours concerned with a proposed large residential/commercial development in their county. Other residents were attracted to the cause, and in 2003, CCEC was born.

I love CCEC’s motto, proudly celebrated on its website’s home page: Empowering Citizens to Enhance Chatham’s Future.

I say “proudly celebrated” with just cause. Here’s a list of 14 of CCEC’s 29 cited accomplishments over the years:

  • Sponsored two forums in 2003, one advocating smart growth principles and the other promoting good stewardship of the land
  • Created a volunteer professional group of technical advisors: water, soil, erosion, economics, traffic, and more
  • Has a CCEC representative at all Board of Commissioners’ meetings and all Planning Board Meetings
  • Sponsored booths at local county fairs and festivals
  • Spoke out against the “Bigger is Better” concept
  • Supported the Chatham Citizens’ Advisory Group in their fight against new waste management area
  • Advocated for further study of a commercial development as it went through the process
  • Created and maintained a web site along with a continually growing listserve to keep citizens responsibly informed
  • Co-sponsored two forums to inform citizens of the specifics of a development proposal
  • Presented a researched, consistent approach for Open Government
  • Continued to raise considerations of stronger buffers, affordable housing, waste water treatment, environmental issues, etc. for many proposed developments and spoke out at the public hearings
  • Developed a strong, respectful, media connection
  • Maintained a data base on new developments, projected numbers of people and school population growth
  • Formed a separate Water Task Force to study water issues

Today, CCEC is composed of two distinct groups: 1) a not-for-profit advocacy/legislative arm of the organization; and 2) a tax exempt educational aspect of the organization. Both organizations have the mission to empower citizens to enhance Chatham’s future. This empowerment is accomplished in two ways:

  • The advocacy/legislative group, is proactive and speaks out on issues of concern throughout the County, working to promote well-planned conservative growth, protection of natural resources and diverse culture.
  • The educational arm of the organization and accomplishes this mission by conducting seminars, forums and courses.

WOW. I’m impressed. The CCEC can-do organization is breathtaking in its conception, its execution, and its effectiveness.

So, how do we transplant the CCEC model to Essex-Windsor County? If there are any citizen activists out there who want to take this on as a project, count me in. Contact me at

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2010 by in political action and tagged .
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