On April 23, 2012, Windham's Board of Selectmen met to discuss whether or not the town of Windham should partake in a program called “The Sustainable Communities Initiative”. The program is funded by HUD, and was presented as a long term land use planning program, that includes an agreement that our Board of Selectmen are being asked to sign. The agreement is titled: “Partnership Agreement, NH Regional Planning Program – A Granite State Future”.
At the meeting, I was glad to see Windham residents share their thoughts. Some Windham residents spoke in favor of the proposal. Others noted the agreement contains some language that is vague in some places, and in others... suggests the full scope of the program goes way beyond land planning. The broad nature of the agreement included items that led to several Windham residents, including myself, to ask for clarification.
Some of the items for clarification included the definition of a “Regional Equity Team that is comprised of representatives of underserved and marginalized populations”. This led to other questions; What is a Regional Equity Team? What function will this team perform? Who are the “underserved and marginalized populations?” What is the purpose of the Regional Equity Team and how will it influence the drafting of the land use plan?
Other questions were asked to define the “Equity Planning Interests” (who are they), and for some details as to what are the “Transportation Land Use Roundtable” and “Livability Principles” -- both of which are to be used and incorporated into the plan.
Some of the people that spoke at the meeting raised concern that the planning of our town was being moved away from local control where the current decision makers are elected officials who are directly accountable to the town’s residents – and given to a regional commission that was comprised of unelected bureaucrats who may or may not always have our town’s best interests at heart. This concern was raised by a clause in the "Decision Making Process" section of the Agreement that states “Any disputes regarding administration or grant resources are resolved by the Executive Committee.”
This led to questions as to who is on the Executive Committee, and how they will govern the direction of the planning. It is also important to recognize that the Executive Committee is another hierarchical level removed from the Regional Planning Committee, which makes it two levels of unelected bureaucrats removed from our town -- with each level having no direct accountability to Windham.
I believe that these were all common sense questions that were being asked by concerned citizens – to make sure the decision of whether or not to enter into the agreement is to our town’s benefit or not.
Between Monday night and Tuesday morning (as I wrote this letter), I am dismayed to hear that there are people in Windham that are already demonizing those that simply stood up and asked questions.
We all live in, and want the best for our town. I realize that everyone will not agree on everything all of the time… and it is why I encourage people to express their thoughts. I believe that it is healthy for all of us to participate in open and honest discussions regarding the direction and management of our town. I am disappointed that some people consider the act of encouraging representative government and the sharing of ideas to be a radical concept.
The decision of the Board of Selectmen as to whether or not to participate in the Sustainable Communities Initiative is one that will have a major impact on our town for decades to come -- and we should all have a voice in that.
For more information on this issue:
A liberty group in NH saw this story and posted their thoughts:
PLEASE take a moment to read the attached Granite State Future plan. You will get a much better idea as to what is being considered for the regional planning structure that will be implemented -- should it be approved. Keep in mind that this program is Statewide, and funded by HUD. All of the grant money will be controlled by HUD and there are requirements that will need to be fulfilled before any grant money is distributed.