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Re: SG-W:/ Yesterday's Sustainable Washtenaw meeting

I'd say that avoiding becoming jaded may be our greatest challenge in 
this effort. Those of us truly committed to sustainability are the only 
ones who will ensure that this group makes any real progress. Perhaps 
finding a champion on the steering committee will help us to mold the 
process toward greater progress.

As for whether this effort will progress quickly enough to have an impact 
on sprawl in the county, I don't think it really matters. We have to do 
what's necessary whether Sustainable Washtenaw initiates it or not. 
Realistically, I don't see how we could expect an initiative like this to 
have such an immediate impact. I don't think any countywide effort that 
tries to be all inclusive could possibly move that fast. (Besides, I 
don't remember "making progress" as being one of the goals outlined by 
Bob at the beginning of the meeting, do you?) There's a lot of internal 
education that still needs to go on, for one thing. I also don't think 
that stopping sprawl is necessarily the goal of this effort, although 
sprawl may have been a big part of what's created the interest in it.

That said, there is an opportunity available through this process to 
inform and influence key decision makers, many of whom, as you noted, 
have attended. Take advantage of it. And if there's a township board 
member who you think needs some educating, invite them to attend one of 
the future meetings (once we start getting into real discussions, that 

My feeling is that we can do this now or we can do this later or we can 
not do it at all. I want to do it now. We need to do it now. And if we 
think stopping sprawl in the next year(?) needs to be a goal of 
Sustainable Washtenaw, we need to push for that.

I suggest that others who attended send your comments to Marion Smith and 
ask that she forward them to the steering committee (as I did.) Please be 
as constructive as possible. They need all the feedback they can get, 
otherwise we're in for a very long haul. (How long did Jeri say she spent 
with that other group defining "community"? Two years?)

(Also note that I'm ccing this to Marion, since I don't think she's on 
this list. Hi, Marion. Get ready for it!)


>As most of you know, Washtenaw County has kicked off an effort to make our
>county a more "sustainable community."  Yesterday was the third public
>meeting of the effort, and it was very well attended.  I would guess that
>approximately 100 people from all parts of the county were present.  It was
>a real who's who of Washtenaw county government representatives, including
>the mayor of Ann Arbor, several city council members, representatives from
>many townships, State Rep. John Hansen, bankers, educators, nonprofit
>representatives, and other prominent members of our community (including
>several subscribers to this list).
>I wish I could say that this effort shows promise, but after attending three
>of these meetings over a period of four months, we aren't exactly making a
>lot of headway.  At this point and over the last three meetings, we are and
>have been defining terms.  Yesterday, we spent essentially the entire
>two-hour meeting coming up with many definitions for "community" and
>"sustainable community."
>A strategic plan has been developed, but it is so broad and generic that it
>looks like something out of a group dynamics textbook.  And that's what it's
>been about so far, touchy-feely group dynamics led by a perky meeting
>At this rate, there won't be any open space or farmland left by the time
>it's decided that we need to do something to preserve our quality of life.
>At least there is broad interest in the issue of sustainability, based on
>the increasing attendance at these meetings.  I fear that interest will
>diminish if more progress isn't made.  A lot of people had to take off a
>morning of work for yesterday's exercise.
>That's my jaded take on yesterday's proceedings.  Any other attendees like
>to chime in?
>Jeff Surfus

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