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Decatur Diary | February 23, 2021

Into the Home Stretch: Applying What We’ve Learned

After more than a year of intensive community collaboration, we’re ready to test ideas to include in the City of Decatur’s Strategic Plan for the coming decade.

Here’s the latest update:

On Thursday evening, Feb. 11, we gathered via Zoom to dig a little deeper into the challenges of climate change, the last of four themed Decatur 202 virtual meetings that set the stage for refining ideas into a draft Strategic Plan. Preceding the climate change discussion: Topic-focused 202s on Equity and Racial Justice (Jan. 14, 2021); Housing Affordability (Dec. 10, 2020); and Transportation and Mobility (Nov. 19, 2020).

The Decatur 202s: A virtual opportunity for next level discussion.

You can find recaps of all four 202 discussions on our summary page. Among the important takeaways: Just about everything on the list of citizens’ concerns and hopes for the future has a home within one or more of those four 202 topics. And participants in all the Zoom breakout discussions were quick to see linkages between two or more of the challenges.

That’s a good good news/bad news realization. There’s a danger of potentially undermining one goal while insisting on optimizing another. Protecting or expanding real estate for moving and storing private automobiles, for instance, not only affects the potential for expanding transportation options (biking, walking, transit), it might also further strain community affordability for those already pressured by housing costs and having to buy and maintain cars in order to live and work in Decatur.

On the other hand, there’s the potential for more bang for the buck in leveraging strategies in combination. Taking the transportation topic as an example: Expanding alternative ways of getting around is also likely to help community affordability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. And since Black citizens are overrepresented among low income populations, reducing reliance on private automobiles might also serve racial equity goals.

This, then, is a key moment in the process. And we got here together.

We made it to this point after a series of Roundtables that began in February of 2020 before pandemic restrictions forced us into online meetings that continued via Zoom in September of 2020. Summaries of those sessions are also included on our Resources page.

From the beginning, the goal has been to move progressively from the broadest topics on Decaturites’ minds to ones that seem to best capture our priorities and to lend themselves to planning that is at once ambitious and within the capacities of a small city within a giant metropolitan area. From the hundreds of conversations we’ve had among neighbors and with regional experts, we know enough now to suggest ideas worth testing. And that work will continue with the City staff and the consulting team in collaboration with community members.

The difference in this next phase will be the opportunity to consider how draft proposals might answer key questions such as: Are these strategies likely to get us where we want to go? Do they sufficiently reconcile differences of opinion about priorities? Do they require expansions of City capacities, resources, and political will? And if so, is that realistic?

Community members will be invited to weigh in on these questions as a preliminary draft begins to come together. Watch this space, City publications, and local media for updates.

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