Thursday, January 15, 2009

Destination 2040: Part 2

Continuing on with a review of the report on Destination 2040, the visioning project of Lexington’s mayor Jim Newberry.

Yesterday we looked at the Value statements and their “feel good” claims that make Lexington sound like it will be a Utopia of the Bluegrass. Next, we will examine what they call Informing statements.
  • Rural / Urban Mix
We will continue to place a high value on how close our rural and urban areas are to each other, and on how quickly we can move from one to the other. The unusual closeness between the city and the adjacent countryside, commonly referred to as the “rural / urban mix,” helps make Lexington truly unique, and requires vigorous protection for that delicate co-existence of urban and agricultural land use.
  • Region
We will strengthen our bonds with neighboring communities, seeking ways our individual strengths, assets, and advantages can be joined to forge a stronger regional partnership and more powerful economic alliance. Regional relationships built on mutual trust and respect will value the unique character, identity, and leadership of each individual community, and be marked by a willingness to share new and existing resources to develop the future of the region.
These two statements claim to be continuing efforts to do ideas not held by a majority of the regional residents. Our urban/rural mix allows us to have a small town feel while maintaining ourselves to be a metropolitan city of the “world class”. We may be a unique looking city, but we have the same problems as the larger cities when it comes to attitude. This attitude is also our stumbling block when it comes to the region and our relationships with our ring of bedroom communities. Lexington is often perceived as a controlling big brother so generating a relationship of trust is sometimes difficult to come by. We must be willing to share or existing resources, without appearing to be mandating compliance, before we can move on to the newer resources. Most of us in Central Kentucky can understand the existing economic alliance, it is the regional partnership that they have trouble with.
  • Sustainability
We will lead in sustainability through our use of practical, environment-friendly practices and emerging technologies to bring about a safer, more resilient community. We value initiatives that improve energy efficiency through reduced energy consumption and develop responsible energy sources for transportation and built infrastructure; increase the available supply of locally-produced food and energy; sustain quality and self-sufficiency in our water supply, and build the community’s capacity to be adaptable and flexible in response to future change.
Lexington has already passed the point of being a self-sustaining community. We may implement new policies designed to reduce our demand on the region for our required needs of food and energy but we will never be able to supply our water needs. The improvements in energy efficiency will best be accomplished by changing the attitudes of the residents, primarily by planning, allowing and then building the elements of society whereby the people will want to live accordingly. Any community has the ability to be flexible and adaptable, it is in man’s nature t resist change.
  • Community Appeal
We will be a community with a consistently magnetic quality of life that attracts and holds creative and talented persons of all ages. We value educational, employment, entrepreneurial, housing, and cultural initiatives that generate an appealing mixture of both workplace opportunity and exciting cultural life, so that many such people, especially young people, will choose Lexington as the place to live, work, and raise families.
Lexington currently has a magnetic appeal that holds creative and talented people. It has from before I was born. This city has, through the University and the basic economic attraction, been a collection of intelligent and hard working immigrants from the rest of the state and beyond. I have often been pointed out as one of the few native Lexingtonians and usually out of a large group of friends and co-workers. I great number of the current movers and shakers came here from somewhere else as did most of the folk with whom I come into contact on a daily basis. These are the people, if the term had been around when they were younger, which would qualify for the name “creative class”. Many larger cities, most twice or three times the size of Lexington, have bemoaned the loss of the creative class and even Atlanta made note of the lack of things to do in their downtown area, leading to the loss of conference and convention bookings. I have seen, first hand, the return of a percentage of those who left home for the greener pastures after college, a less than 80%, but no city hold on to all of their young people.

These informing statements, while not as Utopian as the previous value statements, are supposed to give specific direction to the vision, yet they appear to remain mired in a slightly wider rut than the present course of action.

The next step in this process is to have action statements or approaches to specifically outline actions to be undertaken and by whom. I will look at them next.

1 comment:

Ahavah Gayle said...

I strenuously disagree that Fayette County CANNOT be food self-sufficient. It WILL not, because it chooses not to, but that is an entirely different issue. There is sufficient arable land in Fayette County to feed the population, both in farms and in urban gardening and greenhouses. The fact that most of this arable land is being used to grow things that are useless to human beings as far as food self-sufficiency goes does not mean it COULD not be done.

Greenhouses could be built to produce "tropical" fruits and veggies, sustainable and organic farming of temperate fruits and vegetables could easily be done with the amount of agricultural acreage we have - and including regional lamb, goat, and cattle sources. Laura's Lean Beef is a good regional example. It sells nationwide, but it could sell narrowly to the Central Kentucky market - as could every other regional producer in the country.

This is what Relocalization is all about, redirecting resources to meet local and regional needs instead of participating in the globalization scam which has bankrupted far more family farms than it has ever helped. Those farms that are successful have switched to selling at farmer's markets and to local and regional grocers. The more of these we support with planning and with our incentive programs, the closer Lexington will come to food self-sufficiency - and, of course, more support for victory gardens through the ag-extension office or perhaps some new position in the urban forester's office that would help people specifically deal with the challenges or urban, rooftop, container, raised bed, and landscape gardening. It could be done - easily. The fact that it won't be is not inevitable, it's just the choices that we have made that we have to live with.

Cheryl Fogle said that her family's farm had switched to producing grapes, wine, and fish farming (including caviar) on her former tobacco base, but she said she couldn't see any role for the UCG for such incentives at one "town meeting" held prior to the election. Her "let them eat cake" attitude is what is holding Lexington back - we need people who consider innovation and moving toward self-sufficiency, not more wealthy dilettantes who are just using City Council positions to claw their way up the political ladder. Then we'll see some real planning and some real incentive programs. Until then, don't say the status quo is unchangeable - it is, even if it won't be.