Get involved in planning consortium

A public forum is scheduled for 6:30 tonight at Warren John F. Kennedy High School to launch the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium’s VibrantNEO, a 2040 regional plan.

Hopefully the complicated names don’t stop people from participating in a process that could have a profound impact on the Mahoning Valley, including how government spends tax money, for decades.

If government continues to spend money as it has over the past 20 years, taxes would need to increase 37 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars by 2040 and the wealthiest Northeast Ohio county today would, by 2040, be as poor as the poorest county today. That’s because tearing down 18 houses a day, continuing to build roads and other infrastructure in suburban green space and failing to increase population, all part of the trend since 1990, is unsustainable financially and disastrous environmentally.

This is according to a report issued by the consortium last week.

So tonight in Warren and Oberlin, the consortium begins crafting a regional plan unseen in about 40 years. Public forums will be held in four other cities this week to kick off the process.

The consortium consists of 32 organizations from 12 counties in Northeast Ohio. Among them are Trumbull and Mahoning county governments, the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments that oversees transportation and other economic development projects in the Valley and Youngstown State University.

The consortium’s purpose is to accumulate data that reflects what people in Northeast Ohio value in terms of regional planning. This will be done through an on-line tool called Scenario Planning with which people can play a game similar to the old video game Sim-City.

The consortium will then provide the data to officials responsible for planning decisions in individual communities throughout the 12 counties. Accompanying the scenarios that people create will be financial impact analyses to further help community planners. The consortium expects to have this information by the end of the year.

To stimulate the massive, regional conversation, it issued the report that shows the business-as-usual model of tearing down old and building new is unsustainable.

The public forums and online tool should receive massive participation. We can’t remember a better opportunity for the public to have such a hands-on role in directing their elected leaders.