One of the key challenges in making good decisions relative to sustainability issues is getting all the key players together. The important players often reside in a wide range of government departments, non-profits, volunteer groups, and in the business community. To be effective, they all need to meet, listen to the important issues, and work things out. This does not happen enough.
Fortunately, we are trying to take steps in Howard County to do just that. The new administration is assigning the role to the newly enhanced Office of Community Sustainability (OCS). They are tasked with coordinating the key players from each of the relevant departments and outside groups when evaluating policies. The policies may relate to stormwater, energy, land use, transportation, health, economic development, and agriculture, to name a few. OCS will be drawing on internal experts and will have the ability to bring in experts from outside the government as consultants as needed.
To further this goal, the administration will be convening a series of quarterly meetings for all of the citizen boards that might be involved with community sustainability issues. These groups have not had a formal structure in the past for sharing ideas and collaborating on new policies. The vision is to get the chairs from the various boards together periodically so that they know each other, and know of each other’s goals and areas of expertise. They then will be better able to assist each other on topics and issues that affect their constituencies.
The first meeting of the board chairs occurred this past month. The chairs agreed to share their priorities for the year and to share their meeting agendas. The boards that were represented at the first meeting are: Environmental Sustainability Board, Agricultural Land Preservation Board, Planning Board, Design Advisory Panel, Board of Health, Transportation Board, Recreation and Parks Board, Public Works Board, Economic Development Authority, and the Soil Conservation District. This wide spectrum of boards reveals the breadth of the interests related to sustainability issues. We are hoping that these meetings will result in more effective communication and decision making. It is a start. Stay tuned.
Take-a-way: Greater transparency and communication should help us be able to offer better advice and to get better and more balanced results.