Your city? Take ownership! ... Be heard at PlanOKC

Over the past few months I have been privileged enough to attend PlanOKC public meetings and plunder the documents at www.PlanOKC.org and www.PlanOKC.com, all of which I have found to be fascinating and exciting. PlanOKC is Oklahoma City’s effort at creating a new long-range comprehensive plan for the city’s growth. This will be one of only four such plans in the history of the city, so this exciting opportunity to design and peek into the city’s future does not come around often.

The comprehensive plan will cover eight main topics: City services, Transportation, Sustainability, Environment, Building community, Culture, Economy, and Recreation. If you choose to scout out the websites above, you will see that there are stakeholder groups for each of these subjects. This means that if you work or live in OKC, you are invited to show up, here what is being said, and throw in your two cents. If you don’t want to go, you can still attend virtually… pull up the meeting minutes, read the documents, and submit comments via email. Of course, you will have to wait until meetings start again. We have been promised that this will happen after Labor Day. For now you can go and read the results of the last round of meetings, which consist of a list of issues statements.

I cannot say strongly enough how impressed I am with the city’s efforts to involve the public on this plan. They don’t have to do this! They are just being super nice. And super effective. This project is a tremendous undertaking, and anytime public comment is involved in planning the process becomes more complicated for the planners. I have always felt that public involvement is very important-no small group of people can be completely knowledgeable about everything that goes on within a city or a state- and if the decisions affect everyone, everyone should have a right to speak up. However, the process of trying to reach a consensus between scores or hundreds of people? Good grief, my family can’t even decide what to eat for dinner! Yet somehow the city has managed to organize all these topics, aggressively solicit input from as many people as possible, patiently listen to every comment, and organize the results. It’s really incredible.

Even if all you do is read the web content and watch the subject from afar, you may learn a lot. I have.

This is an exciting time for Oklahoma City. We were cushioned a bit during the recent economic fall-out (not entirely, I know, but other places were much worse off), and all I have seen in the last few years is change, change, change and crazy growth in all sorts of directions, with no sign of slowing. If you want to stay apprised of some of the more grand efforts, of course, you know of MAPS3. There is also Project180, which is the current reason many of the downtown streets are torn up. I’m weary of the construction, but I am rather excited about the promise of the improvements it will create, such as bicycle lanes and better-timed pedestrian lights (Here downtown, we have joked that the pedestrian lights have two meanings: ‘don’t walk’ and ‘run’; thankfully the motorists are usually aware of this).

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