Monday, January 30, 2006

Column 69 - Place-Based Planning

With regard to the Place Based Planning effort by TRPA, in my view there are three critical issues.

First, should IVGID participate at all, and why. Along with this comes the issue that the Bonanza called “pay to play” – should IVGID contribute financially to the effort as TRPA has requested? IVGID’s participation really shouldn’t be at issue in my opinion. Incline Village/Crystal Bay does not exist in a vacuum – we live in the Basin and what happens anywhere around the lake affects us. At the same time, we are as different from the other communities around the lake as we are from Reno or Carson City. These two facts make it critical that we participate in TRPA’s efforts to plan a coherent future for the Basin – if we did not participate we will be no less affected by the decisions and regulations that come from the planning process and we will not have been heard in the formation of those decisions and regulations.

As for financial participation, that’s a tougher question. TRPA has budgeted about $650,000 for Pathways 2007, and the $25,000 they are requesting from IVGID is just 4% of the total budget – not an amount that will make or break the project. It’s about .093% of IVGID’s operating budget of about $27 million, so not an amount that will make or break IVGID, either. At the same time, the IVGID Board of Trustees takes very seriously their charge to hold in trust the Village’s assets, including our financial assets, and aren’t inclined to just hand over $25,000, especially when we can expect to be tapped for further funds in the next couple of years.

As a consultant myself, I understand why what could be considered a token amount is being asked for. It is axiomatic in my business that the success of an engagement depends on how much skin the client or clients have in the game. Personally, I don’t think this is an issue – IVGID has so much at stake in the planning process that this amount of money won’t add much to that, and if the Board decides to go with in-kind contribution or no contribution I don’t think it will matter. TRPA can no more afford to move forward without Incline than Incline can afford not to participate – either would cripple the process.

The second issue is leadership. Once again, at last week’s Board meeting, the point that IVGID is charged only with water, sewers, and recreation was brought up. It’s time we retired this canard, which is only trotted out when the Board considers doing something that someone doesn’t like. The fact is that the Board of Trustees has for years taken the lead on issue that affect the quality of life in the Village, both now and in the future – Incline Vision is a prime example – and should continue to do so. As Trustee Gene Brockman pointed out at last week’s meeting, IVGID is as close as we have to a local government, and I endorse their taking on that responsibility. Even if it is beyond the letter of NRS 318, it is certainly within its spirit.

The last issue is more complex. Incline Vision has done a great deal of work already, particularly since the Town Meeting in November, and one might reasonably ask what will happen to this community-based effort when “outsiders” become involved. The other day, while at lunch at a local eatery, I overheard a conversation that amounted to “we don’t need outsiders coming in here and telling us what to do.” I think both of these concerns are legitimate, and both reflect some degree of misunderstanding. In point of fact, the Incline Vision Organizing Committee intended the Town Meeting to provide the impetus that would set the process in motion, and that once the subcommittees were in place and operating, there would be a need to integrate their work into Pathways 2007. Secondly, a consultant who knows his or her business does not “tell people what to do.” Rather, they objectively gather relevant facts and issues and map these onto the commitments and concerns of the client(s) – from this base, they help the clients to determine possible courses of action and to analyze what the outcomes of these courses are likely to be and how well they fit the clients’ intentions. No consultant worth paying would ignore the work Incline Vision has done, but would build on it, and would ensure that Incline’s purposes and concerns were served. Finally, this is not about “winning” or getting our way – it’s about creating a truly collaborative community in the Basin.

The P2007 Place Based Planning initiative deserves our participation and support.

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