Magazine article Public Management

Program Excellence Award for Citizen Involvement Populations of 50,000 and Greater; Hamilton County, Ohio

Magazine article Public Management

Program Excellence Award for Citizen Involvement Populations of 50,000 and Greater; Hamilton County, Ohio

Article excerpt

The 2004 Program Excellence Award for Citizen Involvement in the 50,000-and-greater population category goes Hamilton County, Ohio, and County Administrator David J. Krings for the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Community COMPASS visioning process.

For decades, planing in Hamilton County, Ohio (pop. 845,268) has been sporadic and parochial, with a small number of jurisdictions adopting local plans irrespective of their neighbors or the county as a whole. But with 49 governments and 49 local planning commissions, the county needed to find a way to build consensus for a collective unified vision.

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Because such a visioning effort required an organizational structure and community culture to sustain it, the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission (HCRPC) reorganized itself with a new charter and established a jointly funded, collaborative, long-range planning committee called the Planning Partnership (now a permanent advisory board working to plan for the county's future). These two entities designed the Community COMPASS (Comprehensive Master Plan and Strategies) visioning process, enabling the county's diverse citizenry to come together with their ideas and aspirations (historically conflicting and contentious) in the spirit of cooperation and consensus.

The Community COMPASS visioning process began in October 2001, when a groundbreaking alliance of public and private organizations and individuals solicited input from citizens through 12 community forums, including one for youth and one online. For the first time, critical multijurisdictional issues (e.g., stormwater management, transportation, septic failures, population loss, etc.) were discussed and resolved. HCRPC also mailed a community values survey to 4,500 households, and the findings resulted in a draft vision for 12 community systems. These include: civic engagement and social capital, community services, culture and recreation, economy and labor market, education, environment, environmental and social justice, governance, health and human services, housing, land use and development framework, and mobility.

In January 2002, more than 1,300 people attended the first countywide town meeting, where new wireless technology was used to solicit realtime feedback from each group and individual. Participants developed a vision for the county that centered around four core goals: building collaborative decision making, ensuring economic prosperity, embracing diversity and equity, and balancing development and the environment. …

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