College of Southern Idaho’s Constitution Day will test waters for possible City Club | Southern Idaho Education

TWIN FALLS — Organizers of a longtime Constitution Day event at the College of Southern Idaho are hoping to gauge interest in creating a City Club of the Magic Valley.

Non-partisan city clubs address public affairs and help communities stay informed about complicated issues through topic-driven forums and civil debate. They exist in other Idaho cities including Boise and Idaho Falls, were members say the clubs have been invaluable in helping address timely community issues. Recent forums in Boise have tackled suicide prevention, marijuana, Idaho politics and downtown economic development.

The formats usually feature an expert speaker, followed by civil debate among the club’s members.

“City clubs are a valuable opportunity for discussion of the issues of the day,” CSI President Jeff Fox said. He and other community leaders, including Times-News Publisher Travis Quast, have been discussing a potential city club with community leaders in the Magic Valley. They think the college’s Constitution Day — featuring speakers including Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robyn Brody — could be a launching point for a club here.

“We’ve actually talked about this off and on for a couple of years,” Fox said, adding it was a topic when he served as a Magic Valley representative on the Idaho Humanities Council.

Other Idaho City Clubs have received financial support from the council.

Organizers of CSI’s Constitution Day luncheon have already sent out event invitations to some community leaders. But any community member who’s interested is invited to attend.

“To our minds, this might be an example of what a City Club might look like,” Fox said.

Planners are seeking a potential volunteer who could help initially organize the project. That’s how clubs in Idaho Falls and Boise started, but now, they have a limited staff who oversee programming, scheduling and advertising.

In the Treasure Valley, City Club of Boise launched in 1995 by active community volunteer Dottie Stimpson.

Now, it holds 12-14 forums per year — typically, drawing an average of 200 attendees, said club manager Danielle Trujillo.

The largest event each year is a political pundits forum in January, with up to 600 people attending.

Members pay a yearly fee and receive a discounted rate to attend each luncheon, but the public is also welcome to attend.

Trujillo said she’s aware of conversations among City Club of Boise volunteer board members about potential new club locations.

Those conversations are encouraged, she said, with the goal of promoting increased civic engagement across Idaho.

The Boise club’s motto: “Things happen when people start talking.”

“I think it’s important to know it’s an opportunity for the community to engage in conversations relevant to the community,” Trujillo said about city club.

The timeline for whether to move forward with a City Club in the Magic Valley will depend on the response from Constitution Day attendees, Fox said. “If it’s tepid or confused or whatever, we’re probably longer out.”

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But organizers hope it will be the start of a longtime tradition of bringing interesting topics and speakers to Twin Falls.

Constitution Day kicks off with a free lunch at noon Sept. 14 at the Turf Club, sponsored by local businesses, the Idaho Humanities Council, CSI and the local District Bar Association.

Held every fall at CSI Constitution Day focuses on the messages and underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution, Fox said.

It’s part of a nationwide yearly celebration marking the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Educational institutions that receive federal funding, including CSI, are required by law to have educational programming related to the U.S. Constitution each September.

The luncheon next month is free for community members, but space is limited and pre-registration is required.

The event will feature three speakers. Former University of Idaho interim president and law dean Dean Burnett will speak about “The Rule of Law and the Role of an Independent, Impartial Judiciary.”

David Adler, constitutional law author and president of the Alturas Institute, will address “Constitutional tension among the three branches of government.”

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robyn Brody will lecture on “Federalist/Anti-Federalist strains in US jurisprudence; and judges and the judicial system in the media.”