From left: St. Louis, MO Council President Lewis Reed, Smart Growth America’s Neha Bhatt, Columbia, MO Councilmember Barbara Hoppe, Queen Anne’s County, MD Commissioner David Dunmyer and Las Cruces, NM Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas participate in a panel discussion at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference.
Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered in Denver, CO last week to share their smart growth experiences and ideas at the 2014 New Partners for Smart Growth conference. Over the course of the three-day event, Council members brought their unique perspective to the smart growth development discussion.
“Eight to ten people working really hard can go far in mobilizing a community,” said Councilmember Barbara Hoppe of Columbia, MO, expressing one of the core themes of the conference—the power of public engagement.
“If you don’t have a comprehensive plan, do one, even if it is not required! It’s crucial to managing growth,” advised David Dunmyer, County Commissioner, Queen Anne’s County, MD. He added, “The more people you can get engaged in long term planning processes, the better the results will be.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas of Las Cruces, NM, shared how her city kept community members informed and involved in their planning process. “We used media in every way we could. We wrote columns, volunteered to speak at every opportunity, brought speakers into town,” she said.
On Friday, Smart Growth America hosted a reception to honor and thank local leaders championing smart growth in their hometowns. “As leaders we rely heavily on the partnership and energy of community leaders, planners, developers, and other stakeholders,” said Mayor Ruth Randleman of Carlisle, IA. “It is a joint effort that leads to success.”
Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan of Fremeont, CA added, “It is important not to become too discouraged. With persistence and time, change does come. Naysayers will begin to come around, and some will even become allies.”
At a panel session on Saturday, Council members presented ideas for policies and programs that can be implemented in one year. Examples included improving neighborhood parks; pilot participatory budgeting and public committees; biannual report cards to assess progress toward community goals; social neighborhood networking apps; local mural programs; transit “Metro prom” events; and façade improvement programs to upgrade existing homes in neighborhoods receiving new residential development. “We must do revitalization with communities, not to them,” stated St. Louis, MO City Council President Lewis Reed.
In other highlights, Mayor Nancy Chaney of Moscow, ID, discussed making communities resilient to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change in the conference’s opening plenary session.
About one dozen Local Leaders Council members attended the conference, sharing their stories and making new connections. Learn more about the great work of smart growth leaders around the country.