Citizen Reaction to Comp Plan Work Sessions

I attended the Patrick Henry High School work session and plan to attend the one at Lee Davis on Monday night. As a professional educator, giving effective presentations, informing people, and gathering input is what I do on daily basis. The process in the high school was inept. No one had bothered to ensure that microphones would be available. It was extremely difficult to hear most of the presenters while we were in a whole group setting and even when we broke into smaller groups. The “recorders” in each group were using pads and pencils. Why not laptops to make it easier for them to record accurate notes? Or better yet, why were they not recording our ideas on easel pads where we could have seen what was being recorded and what ideas were being gathered?

I joined one group in the breakout session for most of the time and then moved briefly to the two other groups. I felt the first group’s County Planner did the best job in trying to answer questions without getting defensive or lecturing. He also frequently tried to turn the questions back to those in the group to say, “So what would you like so see done or what whould you like us to record?” However, I was distressed that he could not answer someone’s questions about the 1:1 job ratio, one of the five major assumptions underpinning your plan. He had to refer her to someone else in the room and we, of course, could not hear that exchange. In the other two groups, the atmosphere was less respectful. When people offered ideas, they were often debated, corrected, or the county position was defended. At the end one of the planner’s group meeting, the planner’s voice was visibly raised and argumentative. This is how the county thinks citizen input should be received? I thought the county was there to listen to citizen input, even if it wasn’t input they agreed with.

If the county was truly interested in receiving people’s opinions, why not include the simple step of providing response cards at the end of the progam for people to write comments or questions on the spot while the information is fresh in their minds?

It is clear to me that citizens’ viewpoints are not truly valued in this process even though there are a multitude of ways that they could be. Where were we at the start of this process? This plan is so vital to our quality of life in this county. Why were we not brought in as goals and objectives were being set? Why were so many parts of the update being worked on before the assumptions were even ironed out and agreed upon, again without our input? Would you be happy to be essentially left out of a process that determined your future quality of life for ten and a half months of a twelve month process?

Why is it that the only part of this plan that seems to have received significant, detailed deliberation is the economic development part? You may say that other facets of this plan are important to you, but the focus of your existing numbers, maps, charts, and graphs belies that statement.

Here are my needs plain and simple:

-back up
-gather more citizen input in substantive, respectful ways
-slow down (though the plan is to be updated in five years, no stickler in the state is going to slap us on the wrist if we take a few extra months)
-hire a consultant who can speak to more diverse solutions
-create a plan that reflects the desires of those who live here and love it here


One Response

  1. I may be too emotional but for the last two years our family is witnessing the unpresedented distruction of forests and rural communities in this area. Looking around I cannot come to terms with unability to people to recornize that they are part of nature and together with distruction of everything around humanity is doomed. Nothing is able to grows for ever. We do noot need extra thousands of feet of dead shopping acarage, empty office spaces and roads . We need fresh air, lush greenary around us to stay alive and human!!! Think about it!!!!

    Irina Howell

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