Dialogue – the way it was meant to be . . .

“When we face problems or disagreements today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Dialogue is the only appropriate method. One-sided victory is no longer relevant. We must work to resolve conflicts in a spirit of reconciliation and always keep in mind the interests of others. We cannot destroy our neighbors! We cannot ignore their interests! Doing so would ultimately cause us to suffer.”

Dalai Lama

Over the past five weeks a group of 24 Glenwood Springs citizens have come together over pizza and salad with the help of the folks at the Sonoran Institute in the Glenwood Springs Community Development Academy.  This CDA has involved residents of all ages, with a variety of occupations, some who have been lifelong inhabitants, others who have been in Glenwood for only relatively short period of time. There are business owners, retired individuals, realtors, engineers, artists, financial advisors, educators.  There are those that work in healthcare, in government, in the legal profession, mediators, architects, and work with community development organizations. While a diverse group, these townspeople have not gathered out of conflict but of interest. They have the interest of our community and our neighbors and even our pets at heart.

CDA_2_conference_room

GWS CDA Photo courtesy of the Sonoran Institute

We are slightly over half way through the academy and no matter how drained I may feel after a Monday at work, I always look forward to the lively discussion and respectful exchange of ideas that takes place during the two and a half hours we are together.  Two weeks ago I flew from Dallas to Grand Junction and drove back just in time sit in on the meeting.  Suffice it to say, I value the time we are together.

Thus far, discussions have included looked at elements of successful communities,  leadership & effective decision making, assets, liabilities and community vision, and housing.  Of course no discussion in Glenwood would be complete without talking about subjects near and dear to my heart land use decisions and the impact they have on transportation.

traffic-cartoonJeremy Nelson, with Vialta Group, was the guest speaker last Monday and gave an excellent presentation outlining how our policies, things like the Comprehensive Plans, extol values such as affordable housing, creating mixed-use neighborhoods,  encouraging alternative modes of transportation and creating pedestrian and bicycle safe streets.

Unfortunately, reality is often quite different.  He discussed how frustrated he was, as a visitor to our city, trying to cross Grand Avenue at 8th Street with the extremely long signal sequence.   He pointed out that what signage we have directing our guests to parking, trails and information are few, in poor locations and unreadable to the average person.  He noted that although the speed limit is posted as 25 mph, the further south on Grand Avenue one travels, the faster the traffic moves.  He stated that was partially due to land use decisions we have made with parking lots fronting Grand and extensive building setbacks – giving a more wide-open feeling – leading to increased speeds.

One thing he did mention, which quite frankly surprised some people, was that one of the key principles of smart mobility strategy is that congestion equals economic activity.  He acknowledged that many communities would love to have the traffic that we consider a problem.  He also stated that transportation, like life, is all about tradeoffs.

The next few weeks should provide for more interesting discussion among the group as we talk about such things as barriers and opportunities for redevelopment and revitalization and learn tools for implementing plans focusing on zoning and form-based codes.  Being a bit of a nerd, this stuff is absolutely fascinating to me.  But perhaps the session I am most looking forward to will be the final gathering.  During this meeting, the folks at the Sonoran Institute have assured us that we will learn best practices for fostering increased public participation and nurturing community leadership.  I am looking forward to this session because as I look around the room at the participants in the CDA, I see the future leaders of Glenwood Springs. I sincerely hope that many of these participants will take the next step and continue their participation in the community by remaining involved in the discussions and contributing to the solutions. These will be the men and women who take Glenwood Springs to the next level.

I want to leave you with a question and I would love to hear your responses:  What can we, as a community, do to develop our future leaders?