Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Conversation in a Box

Amid the rest of us worrying about day-to-day and week-to-week matters, a few foresighted citizens are already wanting to talk about 2040. On Earth Day, April 22, One KC Voice will be hosting "Imagine KC", which is intended to be a wide-ranging discussion with lots of public input on Kansas City's future and sustainability.

The earnest organizers have created "Conversation-in-a-Box" so that you can host a discussion on the topic at your own home, with your own policy wonk friends. They have commandeered KCPT for the evening, and arranged for a studio audience of 75 with satellite opportunities so that you, yes you, can participate. They have constructed 13 strategies for a sustainable future, and divided those strategies into Vibrant, Connected and Green. They have even created a blog that is addressing each of the 13 strategies.

It all seems so well-thought-out, so organized, that I can't help but wonder what in the hell they are doing by seeking public input. It's kind of like having a physicist stop in the middle of an astrophysical calculation of orbits and asking, "What do you think, Dan?". Sorry, Doc, you left me way behind, and it's probably best that you just finish it up and tell me afterward what just happened.

Of course, public policy lacks the precision of physics, and, eventually, even the most demonstrably desirable public policy needs to prove that it is, in fact, desired by the voting public and its representatives. The greatest transportation or recycling program devised means nothing if it doesn't get implemented, and implementation will require public support. Public support is easier to achieve if the public is well-informed and feels like its voice has been heard.

So, on Earth Day, the public will have an opportunity to participate in a conversation about sustainability and the future of Kansas City. In a sense, it will be a conversation in a box - a box prepared by smart people who have put in the time and energy to define the areas of discussion. Now would be a good time to join in the process and bring your own thoughts to the table.


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