On Tuesday, we learned that the long-awaited sale of the Kaz site was scheduled to close on Friday, March 4. The Hudson Development Corporation is soon to have $3 million in cash from that sale.
On that same day, Peter Spear of Future Hudson sent a letter to all the members of the HDC board offering advice on how they should use the money. A couple of days later, he sent the letter to Gossips, with the request that it be published. So, in the interest of transparency and community engagement, I share, unedited, the body of the letter, which sets forth Spear's proposal and the arguments in support of his proposal.
The best use of the Kaz funds is to solve this Planning gap and transform how the City of Hudson makes decisions.
(TL;DR: Let's teach ourselves to fish, instead of buying fish.)
The lack of a planning function within the City is a root cause of our difficulties, divisions and limits our future growth.
I propose that the HDC close the planning gap by investing in three things:
A Comprehensive Plan Planning Process done by a best in class urban planning & design firm. Inclusive, Participatory, Equitable.
Establishing a Planning Capacity within City Government.
Fund the salary for a newly created position for an experienced urban planning the City.
Fund an operating budget for 3 to X years for sustained community engagement and communication to develop a meaningful relationship between residents and their government.
Now, because stories help make these abstractions real, here is mine.
A few years ago, you may remember that Ed Cross, Linda Mussmann and Claudia Bruce and I spray-painted crosswalks at State and Third Streets.
This is an intersection that has never had a crosswalk.
I had been attending DPW Committee meetings for months. I was advocating for the adoption of a Complete Streets Policy. But others were asking directly for the City to crosswalks at that intersection.
To no avail.
Always because of two things:
The city has none, and getting it is hard. Who does this?
Second, the Planning Gap.
No one can agree on what is needed where, and there is no one whose job it is to identify community needs, set priorities, and manage improvements.
Nothing connects to anything else, because nothing connects to a Plan. So any decision is valid, and nothing is necessary.
Let's look at parks, for example.
The DPW is currently responsible for management of city parks. Except for Oakdale (the largest and potentially most important), which is with the Youth Department.
Neither has professional expertise in parks management.
Meanwhile, there is an independent dog park group, an independent Friends of Oakdale, another Friends of Public Square, and Historic Hudson's plans for the Bronson House. We have concepts for Oakdale. We have concepts being developed for a climate resilient waterfront park. And, we have an LWRP in perpetual limbo.
All of these are worthy, but each is forced to develop their own understanding of priorities independently, because there is no overarching parks strategy.
I want to stress that what I am most interested in is the PROCESS.
The plan promises to make decision-making easier for the City by providing strategic clarity, and bring coherence to disparate activities.
But it is the promise of a community engagement of identifying needs and defining priorities together that is most powerful.
This legacy of mediocre planning is what people talk about when they talk about Planning Fatigue, and has sowed tragic levels of distrust and apathy. And it is likely why you may be rolling your eyes when I talk about planning or a plan.
Solving the Planning Gap will transform how the City engages with its residents, and make it easier for all of us to understand where we are and where we are going.