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Jim Lively: Fill It Out - It Is Easy (Really!)Print

Thriving Communities | October 21, 2008 | By Jim Lively

As the Grand Vision Decision heads towards next week’s “Fill It Out!” deadline, I’ve noticed two things: First, people are very enthusiastic about a project that invites their help in shaping their region’s future growth.

And second, a surprising number of those people seem reluctant to actually fill out the Grand Vision Decision Scorecards. They feel they need to know a lot more about what they’re doing before shouldering such a big responsibility.

Well, there are mountains of data out there, some in the Grand Vision’s own data bases, showing how different growth plans can affect public and private investments, traffic, taxes, housing costs, community design, quality of life-and even global warming. It could keep you busy for a lifetime.

But the Scorecards are not about those complicated things. They are actually very straightforward: They simply ask folks what it is that they want and value in their workaday lives. You need no background or professional expertise, no review of previous presentations, no additional data, no additional guidance to fill out the Scorecard.

The entire Grand Vision project has been designed, from the beginning, so that the only “qualification” you need is enough interest in our region’s future to spend about 20 minutes reviewing the Scorecard and answering 12 multiple-choice questions. In fact, you can answer seven of the questions without reviewing anything!

So, here are some things to remember if you’re still unsure about the Scorecards:

First, there are four scenarios to consider. They offer four different ways to make room for the 50,000 new neighbors headed our way. Where should they live and work? Where should they shop and recreate? And how should they-and you-get around in that future scenario? Wider roads? Better buses? More bike paths? The scorecards let us choose, but first tell us how much gasoline, driving time, transportation taxes, and forest and farmland each choice consumes. The four scenarios are slightly exaggerated so that we non-experts can clearly see the different futures they would create.

Second, you don’t have to pick one scenario. You can favor one part of one scenario, and a different part of another. The consultants will use all of those preferences to produce a new “hybrid” scenario that has elements from the original four. Don’t worry if your preference doesn’t seem feasible or could have bad consequences; the consultants use sophisticated computer models to make sure the final scenario actually could work.

There are no “right” or “wrong” answers. The Scorecards seek ideas from thousands of residents about where each prefers future public investments in transportation (new roads, buses, sidewalks and trails) and land use (sewer, water, parks and schools). Those answers will be combined; only when taken together can they affect housing choices, energy usage, job creation, and more. So there’s no such thing as a wrong answer!

This is all about a region, not just your backyard. The Grand Vision looks at six counties and more than 70 governmental units, so it gathers public opinion on “big picture” growth patterns and transportation choices. Your response will not directly or immediately affect your township, city, or village zoning. “Small-picture” decisions come later.

We are looking far into the future, so don’t let current master plans, zoning, or political bickering hold you back. The consultants will produce a Grand Vision growth strategy in January, and spend another year identifying strategies (i.e., model zoning and funding policies) and projects (i.e., road or transit improvements) that move us toward our “Final Grand Vision”-a plan most people in the region can agree to focus on together.

So, please: Fill It Out! It’s Easy! (Really!) And forward this to your friends and ask them to Fill It Out, too! The more people who participate, the clearer and stronger our Grand Vision becomes.