Community planning consortium Vibrant Futures wants to hear from the communities it represents Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p. m. at Lincoln-McKinley Primary School in Havre.
According to a press release from Vibrant Futures, the community roundtable meetings are a collaborative effort between Bear Paw Development Corp. and Opportunity Link Inc. to help residents voice their community goals and become the driving force behind shaping the future of Havre and north-central Montana.
“Listening to our neighbors throughout northern Montana is a great way to understand the vision that area residents have for their community and the Hi-Line, ” Bear Paw Director Paul Tuss said. “I’m hopeful that folks are willing to share their best ideas about creating a region that will continue to be a great place to live and raise a family, with an eye toward the next generation. ”
Vibrant Futures is a group of city, county and tribal governments from 11 counties in north-central Montana, along with nonprofits like Bear Paw Development and businesses such as Triangle Communications.
The initiative, funded by a three-year $1.5 million U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, aims to bring people from the region together to talk about and solve common problems or fulfill common needs, while pooling efforts and resources to cut back on redundancy and waste, and helping the Hi-Line compete with more populous areas.
Havre City Council almost voted not to join. Councilman Rick Dow led the council skeptics in questions about the hidden consequences of what he saw as submission to a national, or international, agenda of central planning. He felt it would not be right to sell the city’s autonomy for a handout, despite multiple assurances that the consortium would not undertake actions unless requested first by the governments involved.
The council voted to join anyway, then, just last week, Dow was appointed as the city’s representative on the consortium.
One of the benefits of membership, required by the terms of the grant, is the gathering and sharing of a mountain of new data to understand the needs and possibilities of the area. But as Kate McMahon, founder of Applied Communications and planning consultant for Vibrant Futures, said in the press release, data need people to makes sense of them.
“Statistics are only one piece of the puzzle, ” McMahon said. “It is essential that the community be involved to help interpret the data. The people in the community can tell the stories of how regional trends are affecting their daily lives. Data might tell us the population is aging but only the citizens can tell us how their elderly neighbor struggles with heating bills, transportation and isolation. Only citizens can share the innovative ideas on how to address the issues that the data reveals. ”
Opportunity Link and Bear Paw Development staff members are encouraging community members to attend Thursday’s meeting to share their input on local issues and solutions For more information call 265-3699 or visit the website at http://www.vibrantfuturesmt.org.