Beginning Thursday, the city will host public workshops to solicit specific concerns and potential solutions to them. Three sessions are scheduled through next week.
Jamie Greene of Ohio-based ACP Visioning & Planning is leading a volunteer steering committee through the planning process.
Already, Greene said, they have an idea of some of the broader concerns, such as education, infrastructure and leadership, highlighted in a 2011 community survey and the City Council’s listening tour earlier this year. But these formats, he said, “don’t really allow for the deeper kind of dialogue we hope to have.”
Rather than having those who attend speak in front of the whole crowd, the workshops will break residents into small groups so those who attend feel comfortable sharing their concerns and ideas for the city’s future.
The workshops, Greene said, will help ensure people are heard correctly and fill in any gaps in the information that has already been collected.
“We don’t assume that just because there was a survey and listening tours everyone has been heard,” Greene said.
Telesa Stanford, a case manager with 2nd Chance, an organization for victims of sexual and domestic violence, is a member of the steering committee for the One City, One Vision planning process.
Stanford said she agreed to volunteer on the committee because she wants to see improvement in opportunities for business and education in the city.
“I think if we can improve those two things, I think we’ll see Anniston begin to really grow.”
Stanford said she is working now to engage members of local civic organizations in the process.
People have been encouraged by the changes they’ve already seen in the city, Stanford said.
“It’s been very positive,” she said.
Clayton Angell, owner of Remodeler’s Outlet, said the grassroots process is helping to prioritize the greatest needs after years of work going undone in the city.
“It’s sort of a mending process, too,” he said. It brings together people who may not have gotten along before.”
Mayor Vaughn Stewart said he felt it was incumbent upon the city to create this plan, but wanted it to be a bottom-up effort that could move forward regardless of who occupies the chairs in the City Council chambers.
“Rather than council spearheading this, we wanted to put it in the community,” he said.
Angell and Stanford both noted the diversity of the 30-plus-member steering committee.
“Each person brings to the table some broad thoughts,” Angell said. “This process hones those so we can begin to put those down on paper.”
After the three public input sessions, the committee will host a major work session in mid-November to present what the members learned to the public, Greene said. Committee members and volunteers from the community will then break into groups to work on action items for topics they are most interested in.
Greene said the committee will use the community’s work during the next two weeks to craft an overall vision, and the resulting action items will help achieve the vision. The goal is to present a draft plan to the community by January or February and a final plan ready by March or April.
The key to making that subsequent work more successful, he said, is community participation in the next three workshops.
But the upcoming phase of the planning process is about more than just the information, Greene said. “We also want them to take ownership.”
Greene’s firm has worked with communities across the country to form strategic plans.
“In many places where there’s been success,” he said, “there’s been this mentality that we’re all in this together.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.
One City, One Vision public workshops
- Thursday, Anniston City Meeting Center, 1615 Noble St.
- Sept. 17, Hodges Community Center, 3125 Spring Valley Road
- Sept. 19, Carver Recreation Center, 720 W. 14th St.
For more information, visit www.oneanniston.org.