From left: Mayor Tom Beehan, Councilmember Edmund Ford Jr., Councilmember Charles Landreth, Mayor Ruth Randleman, Council President Lewis Reed, and County Board Member Chris Zimmerman.
Elected officials, urban planners and municipal staff from ten regions across the country met in Salt Lake City, UT this week to learn and strategize about the implementation of major regional planning and sustainability projects funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities program.
Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, opened the three-day event by speaking about how regional planning has benefited his city. “If you look at what’s happening in our downtown or with our transit system; if you look at the University of Utah and how it catalyzes economic growth; or if you look at our growing diversity, it is clear that in this community there is a common sense of purpose for who we are, what we want to be, and how we’re going to get there.”
Councilmember Charles Landreth of Brevard, NC; Mayor Tom Beehan of Oak Ridge, TN; and Councilmember Edmund Ford Jr. of Memphis, TN echoed that sentiment during the event, emphasizing the importance of building long-term relationships with local elected officials to support, champion, and protect smart growth projects.
“There is absolutely no substitute for getting your elected official out to visit a perspective site for a project,” said City Council President Lewis Reed of St. Louis, MO. “Showing, in person, the benefit a project will have to the community begins to give them a different perspective. It will make a difference 100 percent of the time.”
The importance of strong elected leadership continued as a theme throughout the workshop, with participants discussing how to cultivate decision-makers as allies and ultimately how to leverage regional planning to move a larger smart growth vision.
“The actual process of regional planning itself—the public engagement, the outreach strategy, the coalition building—has been a real asset to my community, said Mayor Ruth Randleman of Carlisle, IA. “Moving forward with an adopted regional plan in place and the support of the entire Des Moines region will be absolutely vital to the work I do in my small community.”
Smart Growth America supported and participated in this event, which was organized by the Institute for Sustainable Communities and Envision Utah. Teams from Western North Carolina; Knoxville, TN; Covington, KY; Memphis, TN; St. Louis, MO; Madison, WI; Des Moines, IA; Kansas City, MO and KS; Lane County, OR; and Wasatch Front, UT received training on topics such as including equity in smart growth planning, collaborating with multiple stakeholder groups, and measuring progress toward project goals.
The event program also included tours of Salt Lake City’s TRAX transit system, transitioning inner neighborhoods, commercial hubs and suburban communities. Additional similar events will be held throughout the coming year to support HUD Sustainable Communities grantees.