Thursday, November 19, 2009

Conjure Up A Vision Of Community

To Create Sustainability, Livability, And "Smart Growth," You Must First Envision The Possibilities

We take you back to the founding days of The Community Alliance, somewhat after the Neanderthals roamed the central plains [and before they de-evolved for a more sendentary -- and, apparently, permanent -- life (if you can call that living) on the Hempstead plains].

Okay. So we've been "visioning" in these parts for more than a decade now, and about the only things we've found to be "sustainable" are the blight, outrageously high property taxes, and the utter unwillingness of our elected officials to give us anything more than lip service.

Even when we've envisioned exactly what we want, other than nifty artists' renderings of what could be, the results, for the most part, are nil.

Ahh. Perhaps some re-envisioning is in order, and a persistance on our part to turn vision into reality.

Some words to contemplate, to ideate, and to necessitate a course of action (key word, action)that ushers in an era of rebirth and renewal -- economic, social, cultural, and infrastructural -- for our Long Island.
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The Community Alliance - 09-08-2004

Often, in discussing what it takes to create and maintain a "sustainable community" -- a community that fulfills our many and myriad quality of life expectations -- we filter through a seemingly endless stream of catch words: Assessment, planning, advocacy, action, result.

We follow a prescribed timeline designed to take us from haphazard and habitually unrestrained development to the perceived end-all, "Smart Growth." Classic textbook schemes -- the stuff that a Master's Thesis is made of -- relied upon by planners; bandied about by community advocates; adopted by the elected; dissected by the academics.

We look to, and attempt to document, so-called "quality of life indicators" and "healthy community indicators" -- the likes of which would spin the head of Hazel Henderson, a futurist of international renown. We define. We Redefine. We develop models and attempt to manage results -- especially when they are not to our liking.

In travels around the civic circles here on Long Island, the discussion almost always gravitates toward perceived quality of life issues, with "sustainability" and "healthy community" almost always cast aside as ancillary, if not unnecessary. The focus is on the particular problem at hand at the given point in time, with resolution narrowly construed -- a band-aid applied to a slash through the femoral artery. And having stopped the bleeding, albeit temporarily, we wonder why the tightly wound tourniquet has not abated the hemorrhaging elsewhere in town.

Have we "dumbed-down" "Smart Growth" by taking on the local issue while overlooking, conveniently, perhaps, the more global aspects of the problem?

At The Community Alliance, we believe that the heart of "Smart Growth" and planned development is vision. Our mission, among other goals both grand and mundane, is to provide communities, through their local advocacy groups, with the tools, information, and resources that can be effectively used to develop a vision which, once implemented, will enhance their quality of life, ensure their economic and social competitiveness, and build a stronger sense of community.

We need to understand the connection between the kind of place we want our communities to be and the policies and frameworks that will support our shared vision of community. Of course, before you can begin to build upon that vision -- to assess, to plan, to advocate, to act, and, ultimately, to achieve result -- you must have a vision. A vision free from both blinding myopia and the insular effect that often supplants out-of-the-box thinking so critical for success on the local scene.

Step one: Develop a vision of community, for community and by community. That vision thing. That's where "Smart Growth" and sustainable communities truly lie. That's where we, as community advocates, must begin.
The Community Alliance is a watchdog group comprised of civic and community minded individuals and organizations whose objective is to promote and enhance the quality of life of every Long Islander.

For more information, or to join The Community Alliance, e-mail

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