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Council committee begins choosing Comprehensive Plan task force

Monday, September 14, 2009 by John Davidson

The process of selecting a citizen task force to help in the creation of the city’s Comprehensive Plan began Thursday afternoon at a special meeting of the Council’s Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee.

Council Members Sheryl Cole, Chris Riley and Laura Morrison, charged with selecting 20-29 people for the task force from a pool of 222 applicants, settled on the first 10 candidates by the close of Thursday’s meeting.

The names of all task force candidates will be withheld until Council gives its final approval later this month, as the candidates thus far selected are not necessarily final and could be removed in the coming weeks, according to city staff. During discussions Council members referred to task force applicants by number.

“I’ve worked for a number of cities and I don’t know any that’s ever got this many applications for an advisory committee,” said Garner Stoll, assistant director of Planning and Development Review, during a staff presentation to the committee.

Committee members are being aided in the selection process by a computer matrix that calculates the number of potential candidates represented in various categories that correspond to constituencies that City Council wants represented on a citizen task force. These groups are defined according to age, family size, employment and advocacy groups, ethic communities, geographic areas, household income and other factors.

With less than 30 seats on the task force and a pool of 222 applicants, the task of ensuring that every group is represented will be a matter of selecting each member carefully, as the CPTC did Thursday. At the outset, the committee immediately approved six candidates that all three council members had previously recommended.

Given the number of applicants that will be turned down, Riley said he thought it was important to keep in mind that the task force’s main job will be to ensure that the community is engaged in the planning process  The task force—or steering committee, as some are calling it—will have the power to appoint subcommittees to address specific elements of the Comprehensive Plan. Riley indicated that applicants not chosen for the task force could serve on subcommittees.

“There’s going to be lots of opportunities to participate,” he said. “This is a committee to make sure everyone is at the table, not to do the actual planning.”

The CPTC will meet again on Sept. 16 to finish the selection process. City Council is scheduled to appoint the task force at its Sept. 24 session.

“I think the whole council sees this as a big first step to having a comprehensive vision that will lay the groundwork for the city for the next 30 years,” said Cole. “And I’ll also add that back in 1928 when this process was taken up by council the city was segregated, lest we think that this venture that we’re about to engage upon is not very significant.”

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