Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Public Involvement...We Got Bureaucrats To Tell Us What To Do.

Here's a link to the latest 78th Street Project Sounding Board meeting.

I wasn't at the meeting, so I can only give a somewhat informed opinion based on the notes as they are written and my conversation with several folks who were in attendance. So here it goes:

It seems that there is as much disagreement as ever about the development plans for the site. Not surprising. As usual, the folks heading up the project are too interested in pleasing everyone and not staying true to the idea that agriculture should be the main focus of the site. The results of the public opinion exercises from the first public workshop made that very clear.

This news from Mark McCauley is an excellent example of what I've been referring to as the public UN-involvement process:

"Mark McCauley explained the project schedule has been truncated due to County’s budget deficit. He said the County is working to reduce the number of public meetings since there has been an extensive public process and there appears to be some level of support for the direction of the project. Mark said there will be a public comment period instead of an open house to generate feedback on the draft concept plan."

Extensive public process??? One public workshop that was poorly facilitated, collected data was omitted and altered, and the results have apparently done little to influence the project management team's concept plan process. Nice job, Mark. Why not just end this nonsense all together and just build it however you, the BOCC, and the folks at JLA have wanted too all along? Stop trying to make the public feel like they've been involved in the development process on your project and that you're going to actually utilize and comments received during your next "public comment" period to help make any decisions about how you move forward with your theme park. Will you be letting the "public" know about the "public comment" period the same way you let us know about most things? A last minute e-mail, a notice in small print in the local fish wrapper, maybe a sentence or two buried in the Clark County web site somewhere?

Truncated schedule??? So we should rush into this with nothing but the severely flawed public involvement process conducted by McCauley & JLA and a half-baked concept plan that doesn't appear to reflect the values held in highest regard by the public via the County's own opinion collecting process and what sort of results should we expect from that? If we're lacking funds, should we be cautious and take our time to make sure we're moving forward correctly the first time, rather than dumping good money after bad.

Sunrise O'Mahoney is the temp employee that the County has hired to help facilitate activities at the site. She states at the meeting:

***"...that education classes are underway through different organizations." (at 78th Street)"***

***Sunrise recently informed me that she was misquoted in the meeting notes and this is NOT what she said. There are currently NO educational classes underway at the 78th Street facility.This renders the following paragraph mostly unnecessary...except for the general subject of poor communication and a lack of utilizing free and powerful web-based tools to facilitate a more accessible and feature rich avenue of communication via the community and the County.***

How does the public find out about classes at the facility? Are the classes open to the public? If the site is a community focused project, shouldn't there be a publicly accessible web site or something where the community can find out about educational opportunities and events at the site? Facebook and Blogger are some examples of free services and powerful communication tools, so lack of budget can't be an excuse...This is not a criticism of Ms. O'Mahoney's efforts. In my opinion, she's not being given tools to use to help her with her job. It just floors me that in this day and age of free and powerful communication tools via the internet that the County is so out of touch with methods of communication. Again I beg the question, if the County budget is so tapped out, what are we paying a public involvement firm (JLA) for if they aren't utilizing freely available methods of extremely efficient means of communication and dissemination of information to enhance the public involvement process?

I find it interesting that so much emphasis is being put on buildings, a farmer's market (which I still think is beyond ridiculous), and recreational activities. So little to talk about with regards to agriculture. Is it because McCauley, et al. have no clue what to do with the ag component or is it merely the lowest of priorities for them. I'm betting on the latter. I thought agriculture was supposed to be the central component of this project. If they don't know what they're going to do with regards to agriculture on the property, how can they even consider building trails, carriage paths (where the heck were carriages on any of the lists of ideas for what would be done at 78th Street?), parking lots, expanding recreational park land, etc... Putting the cart before the horse if you ask me.

What I'm especially curious about is the "working/living farm" concept. Again, are we building a Sturbridge Village type attraction here or is this going to be some sort of sustainable, intensive agricultural thing where people can see a working example of the potential and possibilities afforded by alternative methods of farming? I guess we'll have to wait and see what the deciders have in mind for us simple folk.

I am all for pushing forward with the Food Bank aspect of the project ASAP. That's gotta happen soon. But again, tying the Food bank into the agricultural component of the site is critical. We've got acres of prime farmland at the doorstep. Why not provide fresh food and nutritional education onsite for the folks who need assistance? I sincerely hope we move in that direction.

That's all for now...what do you think?

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