WGCU selects Carla Brooks Johnston (1940-2011) as one of the Women Who Make Southwest Florida

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 Read More on WGCU.org/makers

MAKERS: Women Who Make Southwest Florida

a program of

WGCU Public Media,
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation and
The Women's Fund of Southwest Florida,

honoring 21 women who have made a significant impact on Southwest Florida through their contributions
in the 
arts, business, education, healthcare, politics, the environment and social justice..

Premiere Screening was held Monday, February 25th, 2013 at Arcade Theater, Fort Myers, FL

* * * * *
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
at noon on WGCU TV

This episode includes
Carla Brooks Johnston, (1940-2011), author and mayor of Sanibel
* * * * *

Produced by Chelle Koster Walton and Joan Wood. 

Please visit http://www.WGCU.org/makers for additional information. 


Shocking News: Carla Brooks Johnston died

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The dedication in a recently published book states:  “To Carla Brooks Johnston, Who Turns Words Into Deeds For Better Communities.”  And that is exactly what she did some four decades ago in Somerville and Cambridge and for the last decade of her life in southwest Florida. 

Carla Brooks Johnston
1940 - 2011

Carla Johnston died of cancer on April 28 at her home in Sanibel, Florida.

In the 1970s she played a key role in the election of reform Mayor Lester Ralph in Somerville, ousting a corrupt government. The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the corruption and what Carla Johnston and her colleagues were doing to end it.  As funding coordinator for the city in Ralph’s administration, she brought education, social welfare, and environmental funds to the city and was instrumental in getting it designated an “All-American City” in 1972.  She was executive director of northeast Massachusetts’ 101-city planning council and chief budget analyst for the areas’s 78-city transportation consortium.  She served as Deputy Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, headquartered in Cambridge, and was twice chair of the city’s Democratic Committee. She was CEO of her Cambridge-based New Century Policies.  She was a professor at U.Mass-Boston and also taught at Boston University and Emerson College. At Harvard she was a Loeb Fellow, was a fellow at the Kennedy School and was awarded first Bunting Peace fellowship. She lectured on public policy and media throughout the United States and in countries on six continents.

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Why Care Whether Government Works?

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Why care whether government works for its citizens?

Most Americans can recite the U.S. Pledge Allegiance to the Flag. Most speak with reverence for democracy, the amazing governance system invented by the Greeks thousands of years ago—a system where the “demos,” the people, govern themselves. Do most of us know how to make democracy work today?

What happens if we don’t? What happens if our Constitution and Bill of Rights slide into a symbol, an icon, that’s fondly revered; but one that is no longer the heart beat of an idea that we defend at great cost? Why is it that, here at home, we take for granted the freedoms for which others give their lives? If we fail to exercise this concept of self-government, will we fail to keep it? Look across history at nations who have gained or lost the right to self govern.

Furthermore, behind the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are implicit values such as compassion for and acceptance of persons that, in some societies are rejected. We value fairness and integrity. These values, many grounded in the beliefs passed down by the world’s great religions, have certainly been violated at times; but at other times they have been used in concert with our governance documents to make America a force for considerable good. Is there a need now, in the 21st century, to re-energize enthusiasm for self-governing and for these underlying values?

I don’t look to Washington to make government work. I look to local communities. In Washington most people are either spectators or cheerleaders. Few are participants. In one’s local community, everyone can influence policy making. Everyone can understand the dynamics of governing, the impact of our underlying values. In local communities it’s possible to move past partisan rhetoric to actual problem solving. And, local constituencies make or break the careers of those elected to serve in Washington.

My work focuses on 1) implementing effective public policymaking, 2) identifying media policies that can mesh concern for the health of civil society with concern for the health of the media corporation bottom line, and 3) enabling public understanding that apathy and factionalization IS a major cause of government’s inability to work effectively.

It is at the local level where skills, sensitivities and judgments are fine-tuned to be applied to creating healthy economic, environmental, core public service and cultural policies at every level of governance. This is true both for those who govern and for those who are citizens (‘the demos” of our democracy.)

I think we have become so specialized that we often fail to see the interconnections between stakeholders and between local, state and federal levels of governance; we lose sight of our objectives. We waste time, money and public confidence. We must move beyond this paralysis.