Sunday, August 23, 2009

A view of the visioning at the Great Expectations Citizens' Planning Conference

Here's Jimmy Couvillion's account of yesterday's visioning forum for the city's comprehensive master plan. Thanks for your view, Jimmy!

I don't think that anybody should attempt to describe what happened, but when the clickers failed to record the responses from the people the real test of working without the planned technology began. It's like a speaker depending on a powerpoint progam and finds him or herself having to perform alone. My guess is some three hundred people were present to take part.
My table had a good representation of the Shreveport area with one returning visitor from North Houston, Texas. He is Mr. Robert S Barnwell III, the descendent of the Barnwell Drilling Co and the family who built the Barnwell Center down on the river front. His remarks included pointing out that for a city of its size Shreveport has a lot of access routes and Clyde Faint Parkway and the riverfront are positives for Shreveport. Mr. Barnwell is a classic story of migration away from Shreveport. Moved to North Houston and started a new company called Texas Gas Utility Services Inc. and remains President of his firm today. He heard about the Master Plan Vision Forum and came home to participate in expressing his thoughts on opportunities and challenges for Shreveport.

A lady from Southern University came over and sat next to me and gave the most complete account for what is lacking in Shreveport. It was about lack of job opportunity and the middle-size housing shortage. She pointed out that young graduates, if they are not in the medical field or law profession, must leave town if they can't find a job other than working in government or educational institutions.

Billy Wayne and I met at the entrance so he brought me over to his table. Education and Arts related to After School Programs is Billy Wayne's bag of tricks. Good balance of opinion on all major issues and I sing the same song about lack of human capital and financial capital in our City for new business opportunities.

* Return of the Holiday In Dixie Parades kicking off the State Fair. I bought an old style bicycle so I would like a bike parade or tour on downtown shreets on Sunday afternoons.
* More kid art drawing contests held on the West end of Texas Ave around Artscape, Southern Museum and Robinson Film Center. That brings the parents with the kids to downtown.
* Free transportion from Sport-tran would improve job accessibility, access to library and schools to further education opportunities.
Loren Demerath and Barnwell were talking across the table about downtown and how we needed to take the attitude that we could create a great downtown for more retail business , and residents and more parking space by removing old buildings that contribute nothing to downtown. A large retail store was mentioned, too, by Loren.
* We need a list of building owners of downtown properties. Loren said just think if we had our own Bossier BoardWalk on Texas Avenue. The return of storefront windows and an active place for people. That sounds like what the city look like when I went to work here in 1963.
* Barnwell point out that he opposed the late hours for the bars on the riverfront. I though our table was mainly interested in returning downtown to being a living city again and work for more jobs with opportunity for a better life.
* Our vision exercise of what Shreveport would look like in Twenty or Thirty years was cut short by the folks at the mic, but we passed our written thoughts to the facilitator, a great young lady from Southern University.
How we get there is the next plateau and I wish we would have had more time to get to know each other better and work on solutions to address taking advantage of recognized opportunities and how to conquer our challenges. We had a lot of competition from the front of the room at the mic that was distracting to the table and many of our conversations were cut short as the speakers thought better by saying something in the mic.. When the announcement that the electronic clickers were not working they brought out the old sheet of paper and started explaining the questions and the check sheet at the same time. We lost "Mo" at this point but our table was able to proceed on with more conversation on the subjects already mentioned and I and a few others failed to mark on our sheet of paper while talking at the same time.After lunch the table changing started and folks decided what subjects presented were of interest and they moved on. I visited with Rose Wilson McCulloch and Lola May and was joined by Scott Hudges. Later Scott and I were joined by Craig Durrett and we enjoyed each other's company until the party was over.This, as I understand it, is the Shreveport Vision-only stage of the planning process. The next step is to continue the process in the neighborhoods of Shreveport. So, there is a chance to take what we have heard and determine what opportunities and challenges exist away from downtown. I suggest neighborhood leadership needs to come together and prepare for a good representation of neighborhood folks. I hope the distractions are few and people participating can build on each others ideas for a better Shreveport community quality of life.. The Technology went to hell. This is not the first time such has been used and it is certainly not new tech. They get an "F". What ever their names are, we need to remember them.Wish I had thought to copy the sign-in sheet for our table. I did see that it was being keyed into a laptop by another lady from Southern, so maybe it will be possible, to get a copy.I must say the association, "A Better Shreveport" were great contributors to the vision forum by having active members present to take part and aid in the vision process. MPC Staff and Commissioners did the heavy lifting of drinks, trash hauling and such.Was not a perfect process, but that is an over-used word anyway. It was cool or cold in there and the lights didn't go out.

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