Thursday morning, I attended the 28th Annual Future of the City Symposium, hosted by Alabama A&M University. Citizen attendance was exceptionally low — so low, that I am not sure if I was actually the only private citizen there. A variety of presenters from city governance and private entities discussed their points of view on the topic “Planning Healthy, Livable, Sustainable Communities.”
“Healthy” and “Sustainable” are loaded terms which mean very different things to different parties, so the subject matter was not well focused, and lacking the presence of major stakeholders in the audience like private developers, investors and citizens, the entire morning most resembled a lecture to the urban planning students that made up the majority of the audience. I was also disappointed that questions regarding food systems (from myself and others) were not ever directly answered.
For many years now, I have been attending events for the City of Huntsville where there has been a lot of talk regarding sustainability, but thus far I have seen very little positive action in that direction. Meanwhile permits for exceptionally unsustainable projects like productive farmland being converted to monstrous housing developments miles from shopping and work continue unabated.
Very soon, the City of Huntsville will be holding citizen input sessions as a prerequisite to developing a new long range city plan. If you care about resilient local food systems, preserving open space, economic diversity, sustainable living and quality of life issues, and either live, work, shop in or routinely visit Huntsville, I hope you will take part in these planning sessions. A few years ago I attended the sessions for the City of Madison’s plan, and they were very organized and productive. Huntsville’s new Manager of Urban and Long Range Planning, Dennis Madsen, was a part of the firm Urban Collage that worked on those planning sessions, so I am optimistic that they will be equally productive for Huntsville.