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January 02, 2017

Phoenix Public Service Project

History of Public Service Project

The Young Lawyers Committee of the State and Local Government Law Section of the American Bar Association has started a new public service tradition at the Section’s Fall Conference meetings. For lawyers who spend their time working on various issues of state and local concern ranging from election law, historic preservation, smart growth planning, eminent domain, municipal contracting, cyber security, implicit bias, and even fracking, this versatile group uniquely deals with many diverse communities and people every day its members go to the office. Last year, the Young Lawyers Committee decided that it wanted to give back to some of those people and those communities. And the group integrated this idea into its 2015 Fall Section Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, when it developed concepts for conference topics of interest with local speakers. As Sorell Negro, former Young Lawyers Committee co-chair tells us, the two ideas of public service and locally sourced conference topics organically came together in Louisville when “one CLE program focused on urban heat islands, and one of the speakers worked in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. She put us in touch with her colleagues, who told us about their urban tree canopy project, and we decided a tree giveaway would be a great way for the Section to contribute” to that community and make a lasting impact.

Succeeding Young Lawyers Committee leaders have aspired to emulate the inaugural tree giveaway public service project in Louisville at subsequent Section meetings. You’ve heard of ecotourism that encourages travelers to choose sustainable companies that give back to the local economies. Well, these young lawyers are now taking this concept to a new level by combining CLE lectures that educate attendees on current legal topics and give them an opportunity give back to the local community and the residents where the meeting takes place.

The Tradition Continued in Phoenix

In November 2016, this public service project tradition continued at the Section’s Fall Conference in Phoenix at the Native Health Community Garden. Uniquely, this Section meeting focused on Native American legal topics and concepts, and Elizabeth Peetz of the Young Lawyers Committee found a community garden within 10 minutes of the hotel where the conference was taking place. This Native Health Community Garden has been featured by the Centers for Disease Control in its traditional foods project as a great example of using sustainable approaches to promote health and prevent diabetes in American Indian and Native communities. Thus, the second annual community service project was born.

On the Saturday afternoon of the conference about 25 State and Local Government Law Section members and their families volunteered their time with the community garden. Over the course of two hours these lawyers, along with some family members, weeded the community garden planter boxes, spread chicken manure in rows to be planted for the upcoming growing season, and cleared cement and debris. And even our future lawyers joined the group. The Kamparath children were definitely the most enthusiastic workers in our garden. And this year’s Section Chair Ellen Rosenblum, the current Attorney General of Oregon, really dug in and led our Section in demonstrating her engaged support for this public service project and this unique Section meeting’s focus on Native American communities. Thank you, Chair Rosenblum, for your continued support for our state and local government lawyers to volunteer actively in their communities. As Susan Levy, the Director of Volunteers for the Garden says, thank you to you and and all of your lawyer colleagues for their help and energy at the Native Health Traditional Garden. “You all accomplished so much and made a huge difference in the project.” Levy also sent every volunteer home with native seeds from the local area as a small token of thanks for the lawyer’s time.

More Details about the Native Health Community Garden

The Native Health Community Garden, located off Indian School Road in Phoenix, currently has one acre with 34 raised garden beds and four extended beds for individuals with disabilities who are in wheelchairs. It has a small serpentine walking path with shade structures and hopes to install passive exercise stations in the near future. It just commenced a new traditional garden on an additional half acre just east of its current land. The Native Health one-acre garden is part of a comprehensive 11 acre garden that has multiple partners and organizations supporting it. Also, this land is historically an original part of the reservation.

Native Health proposes to create a community garden to teach and share fundamental Native American stories, practices, customs related to crops, plants, herbs, and the healing elements of food as it relates to health and social networks. It also envisions a space to create a healthier environment, renew kinship, and work on building a sustainable community within a greater system in which we all exist.

The sections of the gardens and walking path allow community members to learn about different plants, their meaning, uses, and their purposes for various Native American tribes in the Arizona region. Some sections and areas of the community garden are reserved to teach about planting, maintenance of gardens, harvesting, recipe sharing, and cooking demonstrations. Walking paths create and support outdoor activities to tour and the various sections of the garden to share and learn from each other. Through this garden they connect people with the basic and fundamental teachings traditionally offered by many of the Native American Tribes of Arizona.