My last two posts have focused on the issue of openness and transparency in planning for community growth. Of course I recognize that there are limits to how open one can be, and that some businesses have models that require confidential communication (part of the issue with the Hickory Hollow WIC proposal is a need by the mall management to negotiate in secret). But more often than not, involving persons in conversation about possibilities in the community that are not always obvious to others. It opens planning up to a synergistic force in which great things can happen.
Take the Community Center/Health Clinic proposal for Hickory Hollow. It’s likely a very good idea. Likewise, locating a WIC clinic in the area is a good idea. However, by separating the possibilities, not allowing community members to see the bigger picture, it didn’t allow them to see the WIC Clinic as one piece of a larger whole. More importantly, it also failed to tap the creative potential of community members to envision other possibilities.
In example, one of the challenges we have in Antioch is that the Southeast Branch of the Public Library is bursting at the seams. Like other outlying branches (Bellevue is a good example) it was adequate when built, but as the community kept expanding, the library was not able to keep up with the growth. So it wouldn’t be at all out of sorts to suggest that perhaps the Southeast Branch needs to move to the mall as part of the community services package (a suggestion offered by a local councilman in a conversation not long ago). Okay, community members were nervous about locating WIC in the mall, but were open to it being in other locations, especially if they were already public property. So why not locate WIC in the current SE Branch building, move the library to the Mall in an expanded space, and everybody is happy? For that matter, why not envision a community learning center in the mall which includes the public library, some of the services of a traditional community center, and some sort of tutoring and job training program for kids in the community?
Sure, these are dreams that may be far out of reach, but the problem with limiting input from the community is that it doesn’t allow folks to dream big, and maybe even develop a plan for facilitating those dreams. Isn’t that what happened when the hotel/motel industry decided to tax itself to pay for the convention center? Why wouldn’t it be possible for a community like Antioch to proposal a local use fee in order to fund services it desires? For that matter having a big picture vision to sell would allow community leaders to seek private funding for these projects.
Keeping everything under wraps simply doesn’t help the community creatively address it’s problems, and we end up being far less than we should be when our leaders don’t trust the citizens to be creative in addressing city needs.