This article contains opinions and/or editorial content.
Editor’s Note: I was invited to and participated in this workshop.
Deciding Our Path
On July 17th, Mayor Ann Groves Lloyd–as a citizen, not an elected official–brought together a diverse group of community leaders to create a plan for the future of the Lodi Valley.
Darrin Harris, from Journey of Collaboration–a company which specializes in facilitating these types of meetings–led a group of 22 community leaders through a series of exercises designed to bypass politics and get to the (often difficult) answers to simple questions.
Those questions were:
- What does Lodi mean to you?
- What do you want for the future of Lodi?
- How do we accomplish the second without losing the first?
The Good Life
When all the answers to the first question were distilled down, it became summarized in one phrase: The good life.
We’re friendly, we help each other, we have natural resources that we love and promote. We’re a place that welcomes people, and wants to share what we have.
Slow, Sustainable, Diverse Growth
In order for the Lodi Valley to prosper, we need to change and grow. Everyone there acknowledged this and accepted it. The question was not “do we grow>”, it was “how do we grow?”
The guideline that emerged was: Slow, sustainable, diverse.
Taking that back-to-front:
Diverse: While we love to sit at the end of the bar and passionately debate everything from foreign aid to the designated hitter to the Oxford comma, we pretty much all agree that it’s much more fun–and much more useful–when we don’t all agree.
It may take us a while to completely accept “outsiders”1Defined as anyone whose family hasn’t been here for at least 100 years and/or doesn’t have a road named after them., we’re pretty welcoming. That’s not saying we can’t get better, but I hope we can all agree that more diversity makes us better2Except, perhaps, for Bears fans.
Sustainable: Our growth needs to be done in a way that keeps the people and businesses here. It also needs to be done in a way that preserves our green spaces and natural areas. And it has to be done in a way that doesn’t over-tax our infrastructure. Can our aquifer supply the water we need? Can our sewer system handle the output?
Slow: I would suggest that this be rephrased as “deliberate”. We want to think about how we grow. While selling farmland to a developer may be a windfall for the farmer, it significantly impacts our entire community. That starts with basic infrastructure (do we have the wells and sewer capacity?), but extends into community.
That is, as Darrin put it, the “Wicked Question”: How do we, as a community, promote growth without losing our character, identity, traditions, and history?
22 people on a Saturday afternoon can’t answer that. We need the entire Lodi Valley to step up and speak out.
What Does This Mean?
Nothing. And… maybe everything.
22 Lodians sat down on a Saturday and decided on the basic goals and strategies of a Strategic Plan for the Lodi Valley.
That means exactly: jack shit.
Unless we-as governments, communities, businesses, and individuals–choose to adopt that Strategic Plan–or some variation thereof.
My One Disappointment
The people discussing these questions were about as diverse as Lodi can offer. They ranged from young to old, conservative to liberal, government to business owners to active citizens.
The racial/ethnic composition was, unfortunately, mostly white. While about 80% of those in attendance weren’t born here, that’s not enough diversity. I would like to have seen more representation from people who have come from other countries and cultures, and learned why they came to Lodi, and what they hope to see in Lodi’s future.
Stop sitting on your bar stool and bitching.
Open your e-mail, pick up your phone, or drag your ass to a board meeting and bitch to the people who actually make the decisions.
Or write a letter to the editor (you can do so anonymously) and let the community know what you think.
22 people gave up their Saturday to let the Lodi Valley know what they want for our future.
Over 400 people gave up a night to tell the Lodi School District what they want for our future.
Are you going to bitch at Bob over a Bud? Or are you going to express you opinions to the elected representatives who actually make the decisions?
A Lodi native, Blaze attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where he graduated with a degree in theatre technology & design. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world–including a 6-year stint in China. He has been a teacher, a writer, a designer, and is the founder of the Redleaf Consulting Group.