Destination Erie announces two public forums

Category:  BloggERy
Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 4:10 PM
Destination Erie announces two public forums by Ben Speggen

Clear your schedule Monday, Oct. 1 or Tuesday, Oct. 2 because there’s work to be done.

First Erie had the Nolan Plan of 1913. Then The Gem City had the Rotival Plan of ’63. Each of these plans ran parallel with celebrations of the War of 1812, through which the Flagship City commemorated Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Now, we have the Perry 200 and Destination Erie: A Regional Vision, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work as the Task Force is calling on the help of the community at large.

Destination Erie is hosting two open public workshops for people of the Great Erie Region to contribute their thoughts. Monday’s workshop is being held at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College in the McGarvey Hall, and Tuesday’s workshop is being held at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in the Frank G. Pogue Center Multipurpose Rooms A&B. Both workshops are scheduled to begin at 6:30 and run until 8:30 p.m.

“Right now, we’re explaining the process to a lot of people and finding the most effective way to explain it to the community and inform them of the process,” said Ben Pratt, project coordinator for Destination Erie and director of research at the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership. “I think the public forum will help that.”

“We have a really phenomenal opportunity that’s been presented to us,” said Michael Fuhrman, project manager for Destination Erie. “A lot of people did a lot of hard work on this grant, and we got it. And that has to be recognized as an opportunity that cannot be wasted, and so we’re asking people to participate even if there is some reservation. This is our city, these are our county members, this is our region – it’s an opportunity to have a plan and if you don’t have a plan, you tend to flounder a bit. Families plan, businesses plan. Now it’s time for our city to plan.”

The grant Fuhrman cited brought $1.8 million to Erie by way of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The project, under grant guidelines, must be completed by February 2015.

Much like the Nolan and Rotival Plans of yesteryear, Destination Erie gives us the chance to shape the landscape – both physically and economically – for the next 50 years until we celebrate and commemorate once again.

“We’ve built a good foundation to provide an adequate platform for the community to address this in a structured, effective matter,” Pratt added. “Instead of just talking about there being problems, this provides a way to address them. Young professionals in the community should really think of this as a way to get involved, getting into rooms with those they need to meet with to get the opinions out.”

Fuhrman referred to these open public forums as the “101, first step” to bringing awareness to the region about this undertaking. Fuhrman said the goal is to invite and unite community leaders, stakeholders, public officials, and – as equally important – citizens to come to these workshops and go through what he describes as a “fun process” for capacity building.

When people walk through the door, they’ll be greeted by the bluegrass-Americana of the Tiger Maple String Band, refreshments, and a chance to win some prizes through a raffle. 

“This is something that should be enjoyable,” Furhman said.

Past the music, beyond the refreshments, and after the raffle drawing, attendees will find 15 tables seating approximately eight to 10. A trained facilitator will be present as well as a notetaker. Together, the two will go through questions with the group – Who are you? Where do you live? What do you like about your community? What do you want to see happen? – working from general to specific. After roughly 40 minutes of guided-discussion, the groups will each prioritize their responses, and those will be aggregated into what represents the common interest and concern.

Information taken from these sessions then goes back to formed workgroups, where it will be prioritized so that the thoughts, opinions, and concerns of the community are visible through the next stages of the plan.

“The success of a community is its people,” Fuhrman added.

To him, these public forums are the way to ensure the success of the community by ensuring the success of the plan through the involvement of the community in the plan.

“That’s why, to me, this is really important. It’s important because even if your not sold that this plan is in your region or community’s best interest and you’re skeptical – that’s the very reason why you need to participate because you have a voice and you need to participate in this process.

“This is an Erie County vision, and a larger regional vision with the other four counties, so it’s important to demonstrate that.

“What I’m trying to say here is ‘Hey, wake up – we’ve got something really unique here,' and what we need to have is everybody’s voice involved in the process. Because at the end, this is not going to be the John Nolan Plan of 1913, it’s not the Maurice Roteval Plan of the ‘60s – this is the people’s plan of 2013 and that real is what I’d like to see people recognize.”

Bottom line: If you care about Erie, show up and let your voice be heard. If you don’t, you pleas may just fall of deaf ears for the next 50 years as the rest of us move forward with a plan we all participated in.

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