A new citizen-based think tank is meeting for the first time in Selma. The think tank, called Project Selma, is meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 29 at Selma City Hall.

The think tank meeting was set up by Selma resident Louis Franco. He wants to get groups and organizations together to talk about what Selma needs, and how the citizens can make that happen.

"We're asking all these groups about community goals," said Franco. "There's a lot of good stuff in Selma, but we also have community goals that haven't been met."

Franco said the idea is to get people together from different circles that are passionate about the same thing. His plan is for people to then split up into groups to talk about how a certain project or idea could happen. However, he said everyone will be on equal ground and leave their "hats at the door."

"I want dreamers and doers to show up," Franco said. "They won't be overnight goals, but we have to get started if we want to do something."

There have been community think tanks in the past. City Manager D-B Heusser said Selma has had a variety of different groups that have met before, including a Blue Ribbon Panel that met decades ago.

"Every few years since the '70s and '80s the city has had groups like this," said Heusser. "They drew a picture of what Selma should look like."

Heusser also said the Selma Chamber of Commerce used to have a two-day think tank meeting in the '50s and '60s.

In the past the Selma City Council has also had special select meetings where special groups were allowed to discuss ideas before the council.

"The council would listen to the groups and form objectives," Heusser said.

But the meeting on July 29 will be different because it will purely be citizen based.

Franco is not coming to the meeting with any sort of agenda. He said that the first meeting is twofold.

"We want to get a list of ideas and we want to get a list of people that want to make a difference," he said.

Franco did have a few suggestions for topics. He's like to see some trails in Selma for walking and biking. He said the idea has been around for over a decade.

"The bottom line is, we have no trails," he said. "The best trail in Selma is the cemetery. If we knew this 12 years ago, why haven't we done something?"

He also mentioned that Selma Unified used to have a foundation to give grants to its teachers for projects not covered by school budgets. He also talked about bringing more commerce to the city and a potential amphitheater. But those are just his ideas.

He does know that citizens cannot impose any idea or policy on anyone, but he says that's not the point.

"It's to come up with ideas and see how we can accomplish them," he said.

Franco wants the think tank to meet two or three times a year. He really wants to keep the meetings consistent so the meetings do not disappear like in the past.

"Times change and priorities change, we have to keep the think tank going to make Selma better than it already is," Franco said.

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