I write in regards to the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC) proposal, which will be discussed at a public forum on Sept. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Grand Center.
Let me begin by stating that I support regional planning efforts. Planning scholars and practitioners have advocated for regional planning for nearly 200 years. The reason for such is that regional planning allows us to look across arbitrary political boundaries (e.g. counties) and address universal needs such as education, health care, transportation, and economic development. By working across county lines, we can attempt to leverage the resources and intelligence of people beyond our own community – to be collaborative, creative, and visionary. Regional efforts in other parts of Utah have received nationwide acclaim, most notably Envision Utah, the Wasatch Front Regional Council, and Envision Dixie. One reason these plans achieve success, however, is that they honor the process of planning and visioning, not just the desired outcome. It is also because the groups behind these efforts honor transparency, inclusivity, and fairness. Regional planning has great promise, if done well.
Local residents may be unaware that Grand County already participates in the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments (www.seualg.utah.gov), which includes Carbon, Emery, and San Juan counties. In fact, every county in our state participates in an ALG – Uintah, Duchesne, and Daggett counties belong to the Uintah Basin Association of Governments (www.ubaog.org). Each ALG is already tasked with doing exactly what SCIC proponents suggest. Our regional association requests and utilizes money from the Community Impact Board (CIB), proposes cross-county projects, and addresses infrastructural needs.
In light of this information, I’d like to raise some (new?) questions for discussion on Sept. 17: Are we fully utilizing the regional coalition to which Grand County already belongs? From the perspective of Grand County, how does the SCIC improve upon our existing regional association? Do we need membership in a second coalition? Do the SCIC members intend to deal with a broad range of issues like the regional planning organizations noted above, or have they already prioritized a set of preconceived projects? Can the SCIC fairly balance the concerns of its member counties, and their residents? Will the coalition “hear” Grand County residents? What policies does the SCIC have in place to ensure transparency and accountability?
It is my hope that we can have a candid conversation about the SCIC at our upcoming forum. Regardless of the outcome, it is important for us to rebuild trust in the process of public discussion. Indeed, we can appreciate a shared love for this place, and a desire to see our community prosper. It is my hope that in discussing the SCIC, we remember the most important question behind all planning efforts: in what kind of community do we want to live?
Let’s discuss whether a second coalition can move us towards that vision, and if so, how.