Fall Sustainable Communities Consortium Meeting
On November 2, 2011, eight topical sustainable communities caucuses and four municipal caucuses met at the Fall Sustainable Communities Consortium Meeting. They provided feedback and ideas on the eleven place-based projects recently selected to receive funding under the sustainable communities grant.
Attendees participated in one of three panel discussions, summarized below:
Increasing Access to Opportunity in Metro Boston
The panel included moderator Victoria Williams (Boston Fair Housing Commission), panelists Jessie Grogan (MAPC), Stephanie Pollack (Dukakis Center at Northeastern University), Jennifer Van Campen (Watertown Community Development), and Jeanne Dubois (Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation).
Victoria Williams opened the discussion by defining “opportunity” as fair and equal access to housing, jobs, transportation, and public accommodations and services. She stressed the importance of putting access to opportunity needs at the forefront of planning and policy decisions.
Jessie Grogan further framed the discussion by highlighting some of the inequalities in the region, pulled from MAPC’s Metro Boston equity research.
Stephanie Pollack laid out three objectives that relate to maximizing access to opportunity: penetrating high opportunity areas, improving low opportunity areas, and increasing connections and mobility between areas of different opportunity levels. She also discussed the importance of transit to accomplishing this third objective.
Jennifer Van Campen discussed penetrating high opportunity areas, and Jeanne Dubois talked about bringing opportunities to low opportunity areas.
The ensuing discussion primarily revolved around transit as the lynchpin to connect people to opportunities. Participants also discussed the social infrastructure needed to help people access opportunities, and bringing light manufacturing back to low-opportunity areas as a promising strategy for increasing opportunities.
For speakers bios, click here.
Channels for Meaningful Participation
This group included moderator Shirronda Almeida (Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations) and panelists Peter Forman (South Shore Chamber of Commerce), Janelle Chan (Asian Community Development Corporation), and Emily Torres (MAPC).
Janelle Chan and Emily Torres shared perspectives from the non-profit and public sector, where new and innovative ways to engage and reach out into the community through technology, resource sharing, and network building, are necessary for incorporating non-traditional audiences and the general public.
Peter Forman brought in a viewpoint from the private and business sector, highlighting the importance of collaboration between he public and the private sectors in order to strengthen communities and the economic viability of developments in neighborhoods.
Discussions after the panel drew on both personal and organizational challenges and disconnects that hinder public engagement processes and ways to start addressing these issues.
For speaker bios, click here.
Connecting Public Health and Planning
The public health session included moderator Mariana Arcaya (Metropolitan Area Planning Council), and panelists Lea Susan Ojamaa (Mass. Dept of Public Health), Sarah Garcia (City of Gloucester), George Reuter (Chelsea Neighborhood Developers), and Maddie Ribble (Mass. Public Health Association).
This discussion focused on the issue of connecting public health and planning and included speakers from diverse professional perspectives, including those who specifically work in the public health arena and those who more explicitly concentrate on city planning.
Lea Susan Ojamaa talked about how important it is for public health professionals to build and maintain relationships with planners to make sure that health outcomes are carefully considered in planning projects.
Sarah Garcia elaborated on this idea and talked about ways in which cities can incorporate public health concerns in their planning decisions. She noted that Gloucester is using CDBG funding to make infrastructure improvements to sidewalks in order to increase walkability, and how they have revitalized parks through community gardening.
George Reuter talked about ways that organizations can incorporate public health concerns even if they do not have designated funding for this purpose, like Chelsea Neighborhood Developers (CND). He noted how CND prioritizes public health through project work with examples such as using green building materials and designing residential design that encourage people to get out of their house and be more active.
Maddie Ribble also added commentary, emphasizing how important it is to invest in preventative measures to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs.
For speaker bios, click here.