For years now, Instagram has been touted in photography circles as a great way to discover new talent in the field. But I’ll be honest with you, although I love the platform and am an avid user of it, as a longtime photo editor I haven’t found it a particularly fruitful source of new work. At times, I have contemplated abandoning the platform altogether (along with pretty much all other social media). But every now and then, a gem pops up that makes me reconsider. That’s just what happened one morning a couple of months ago…
The West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council is developing the 2020-2025 State Broadband Plan and is requesting people respond to a brief survey regarding broadband and related issues in West Virginia.
Responses are requested by November 29, 2019.
The 2020-2025 State Broadband Plan will build upon current broadband initiatives and incorporate input from residential and business users, community organizations, educators, local governments, internet service providers and other stakeholders.
The survey should take 5 to 10 minutes to complete.
Click this link to take the survey:
If you have any questions about the survey, please contact CarolAnn Williams in the West Virginia Development Office at 304-957-2024 or CarolAnn.Williams@wv.gov.
BY EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB
Spots are going fast for the Small Communities, BIG Solutions conference. The event looks at economic and community innovation in Southern West Virginia and is hosted by the Alliance for Economic Development of Southern West Virginia, West Virginia Community Development Hub and Coalfield Development.
Small Communities, BIG Solutions will be held at BridgeValley’s Advanced Technology Center, located at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston, on Monday, November 18, 2019.
The second annual conference will be an opportunity to share best practices, discuss southern West Virginia successes, explore opportunities that exist in the region and develop new connections and partnerships. A wide array of topics will be discussed by state, federal, community, educational and industry leaders. Some discussion topics include: southern West Virginia’s successes and opportunities; Addiction, Recovery and Reentry; Workforce Development; Education; and Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
BY ARIN SHATTO, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AMERICORPS VISTA, THE HUB
Residents from the six participating Blueprint Communities – including Kingwood, Lewis County, Meadow River Valley, Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg, New Martinsville, and Parsons in West Virginia – met up recently.
Participants from each team shared the successes they have experienced thus far. Those victories ranged from engaging business meetings; getting technical assistance support to gain valuable skills needed to reach their goals; making meaningful connections with community partners; increasing community engagement; applying for grants; and beyond.
Confidence radiated from the faces of those who spoke of their team’s accomplishments. It filled the room with an inspiring energy that was felt by all.
It is evident that these six teams are in it for the long haul and are committed to continue showing up for their communities!
Our team at The Hub, including Blueprint community coaches Eric Pories, Kaycie Stushek, and Amanda Workman-Scott, is exceedingly proud of the pride and commitment to growth that these communities have showed since the beginning of the program.
In the coming months, the Blueprint Community teams will continue to outline outcomes, tasks, actions steps for their strategic plans, and celebrate each win along the way. They will each host an event in their community to share goals and invite others to join the movement and work together to make a difference in their community.
BY TAYLOR BENNETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
There is a sentiment that’s often expressed in communities across West Virginia. I’m sure you’ve heard it before: The greatest resources we have are our people.
When it comes to local governments it’s not only true, it’s an idea that has been shaping our policy decisions for decades. Local governments create space for citizens to take an active role in the discussions which shape their daily lives through the use of citizen boards and commissions.
This is great news for community members like you, who are able to use their experiences and insight to create local change. And also for local governments, who are able to make choices which are more responsive to the needs and ideas of their constituents.
What is a citizen board or commission?
Citizen boards and commissions are small groups of community members who are usually appointed by the mayor, city council, or county commissioners.
While the specific activities of a board or commission are defined by the people who set up the group, these groups are typically designed to provide expert advice to local elected officials and staff about a certain topic or issue. Most often they’ll do this by:
- Creating or updating a document to guide decision-making. A Parks and Recreation Commission, for example, might oversee a needs assessment, determining what their community needs in terms of public recreation space and then make recommendations to the City Council or County Commission about where best to allocate their resources.
- Participate in decision making processes. Local elected officials might attend a meeting of the board or ask commission members to attend a City Council or County Commission meeting so that they can receive feedback about specific issues.
- When appropriate, participating in budgeting. In some cases, commissions and boards are authorized by their local government to make determinations about how a particular subset of the budget is spent or oversee part of a project.
What “expert advice” do citizens give?
There are two types of expertise that a citizen commission of this kind can provide. First, a community member might be appointed to a board because they have a certain type of technical expertise. For example, if part of a person’s day job involves helping people be healthier through increased physical activity, they might be a great choice for a Parks and Recreation Commission.
Second, community members carry a wealth of knowledge about their own experiences or communities that they are a part of. A great example of this kind of commission is the Youth Council recently established in Charleston. Receiving feedback about local policy from a group of young people allows Charleston’s local government to anticipate how their decisions will affect pressing issues like population loss, employment, housing, and economic development.
How you can participate
- Find out what types of boards and commissions provide recommendations to local elected officials. Information about these groups should be readily available to the public and might be found online or by calling your local government.
- Attend meetings of a board or commission which interests you. All meetings ought to be open to the public and many boards will invite attendees to participate in discussions, even if they can’t vote on final decisions.
- Let board members, local government staff, and elected officials that you’d like to be considered for a board or commission which interests you. Often, these groups are actively looking for people to become members, so be sure to let them know if you’re interested in being appointed.
When it comes to local policy choices, the best policies are created when community members are able to shape the decisions that impact their communities.
BY TAYLOR BENNETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve got a vision for the future of your community. Maybe it includes more businesses operating in your town, a new park in your neighborhood, or safer crosswalks around your child’s school.
Local governments also create a shared vision for their city, town, or county. By incorporating ideas from community members, advice from experts and city staff, and input from elected officials, local governments are able to create plans that will help guide local decision-making.
There are two types of plans that local governments use to help set this kind of community vision:
First, is the comprehensive plan, a document that lays out broad goals and focus areas on topics ranging from infrastructure projects and housing; to neighborhood revitalization and public recreation.
- Comprehensive plans are allowed, but not mandated by the State Code. This means that a local government can choose whether or not they would like to create such a plan. There is one restriction, however. If a local government would like to regulate how land is used within their jurisdiction, they cannot do so without creating comprehensive plan. This is so that they are able to keep track of their goals for land use.
- A local government must vote to adopt a comprehensive plan. Once they do, they are responsible for allocating their resources towards achieving the goals that the plan lays out.
Second, are more in-depth and technical plans about a specific focus area. Most often, these are the goals mentioned in the comprehensive plan. Examples of this type of plan include redevelopment plans, or environmental action plans.
- These types of plans include very specific expert input and recommendations. For example, a redevelopment plan might include a study on walkability or community input on beautification with recommendations about how to make crosswalks safer, or whether or not to plant trees along a certain street.
- These types of plans may be adopted by a local government, but are most often used for reference and guidance to inform how a city, town, or county decides to spend their money.
Turning Plans Into Action
A good place to start is to find out what has been done so far. Plans like the ones we’ve talked about are public record – that means that every citizen has a right to know what’s in there. But, that doesn’t mean that plans are easy to find or easy to read. Here are my recommendations to make it easier:
- Google search your community name and then a word that might describe the type of plan you’re looking for. An example might be “Fayetteville Comprehensive Plan” or “West Side Redevelopment Plan”.
- If you can’t locate one online, call your local recorder or clerk.
- When you’re reading the plan, focus on headings to understand the themes and then look at the recommendations or goals that they plan lays out. You don’t have to know all the details to understand what the plan is suggesting.
Next, it’s useful to understand where in the planning process your local government is.
- If they are just beginning a planning process or updating an existing plan, you may be able to provide feedback that will help shape future goals.
- If a plan already exists, you might choose to advocate to your local government to pass a resolution (Check out our Citizen’s Guide to Ordinances and Resolutions!)to take action on a specific recommendation that the plan outlines.
- If there has been no comprehensive planning done in your community yet, perhaps you set up a meeting with your mayor, city council, or county commissioners. Ask if they are interested in conducting a planning process and connect them to the WVU Sustainable Land Use Law Clinic.
Learning more about the plans that your community has put together might give you ideas for issues you can take action on in your own community. Or maybe, you’ll be able to be the starting point for a planning process that’s never been done before.
BY TAYLOR BENNETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
We talk a lot about local policy decisions, but what does that really mean?
Resolutions and ordinances are the two policy actions that local governments use most frequently to make decisions. The exact method for making these decisions is governed by either the city’s charter or the state code and usually requires a majority vote of the city council or the county commission. Once the decisions are made, they are legally binding and the local government is obligated to enforce or enact them.
Ordinances are most often used to create or modify the laws which regulate citizen action within the local government’s jurisdiction. They are meant to be permanent in nature, although like all local policies they can be changed. Additionally, ordinances often carry a penalty should a citizen not abide by the law that the ordinance creates or changes. For example, an ordinance might assess a fine to anyone who does not follow it.
Typical types of ordinances that cities pass might fall into categories such as criminal ordinances, which define behaviors that are illegal within city limits- things like littering or public intoxication or land use ordinances- things like building and fire codes or ordinances regulating when and how you can build structures on a flood plain.
Passing an ordinance is more challenging than passing a resolution. The proposed legislation must be read and voted on at least twice, with the second vote being final and legally binding.
Resolutions differ from ordinances in a few key ways. First, they often care for matters that are much less permanent than the matters addressed by ordinances. A good example of this is a city council voting to allocate money to a specific project. Whether that project needs a few dollars- planting a tree in the park; or millions of dollars – redeveloping an entire main street; a resolution is the correct tool because the city council or county commission is only authorizing the money to be spent once.
Additionally, resolutions may be made about matters that aren’t as serious or as specific as those handled by ordinances. Language can be more aspirational, and there is no penalty associated with a resolution. When communities designate a specific day to honor a local hero, decide that they want to host a Valentine’s Day Parade, or commit to being a healthier community, these types of decisions are made by passing resolutions.
Resolutions are typically easier to pass than ordinances. They need only be read once and then are adopted by a majority vote of the local government.
What this means for local policy change
Citizens who are interested in making local change have both of these decision making processes available to them.
Trying to set up a rental registry for landlords in your community? That’s probably going to be an ordinance- there’s a fine if they don’t register. Want to see a new playground at the park? That’s a resolution- they’re only going to authorize that money to be spent once.
If possible, work with local government officials to determine which policy action makes the most sense for what you’re trying to accomplish. Asking for the correct type of policy action can get you talking to the correct local officials and help you achieve your goals for your community faster.
Hopeful news is coming from rural communities across the nation. A recent op-ed in the New York Times highlights trends that have been driving The Hub’s local policy work in communities across West Virginia through the Next Generation Communities Project in partnership with Generation West Virginia.
How do we take the ideas from this New York Times op-ed about Americans who want to move to rural areas and turn them into actionable ideas for our communities? Local policy changes can move the needle in a big way as we work to build stronger communities and economies that have a better chance of attracting, and keeping, residents.
There are a number of national studies that show that people under 50 are staying in and returning to their rural hometowns. They’re feeling hopeful about economic opportunities for themselves and their children, taking advantage of affordable entrepreneurship opportunities, and creating innovative approaches to farming and family business.
Factors such as a sense of community, loyalty to place, diversity, and economic opportunity are all contributing to the choice to live in smaller, rural communities. All factors that can be impacted by local policy changes.
This, in turn is shifting the national narrative from one which previously identified success as being able to leave one’s rural roots behind and now is increasingly invested in the ability to contribute to thriving rural communities.
We’re not the only ones recognizing that rural America offers something unique and special for people under 50. It’s a trend that’s picking up steam across the nation – good news for community members in West Virginia who are rolling up their sleeves and working to make local change.
WICHITA, Kan. — For more than a century following the Industrial Revolution, rural and small-town people left home to pursue survival in commercial meccas. According to the American story, those who thrived in urban centers “made it” — a capitalist triumph for the individual, a damaging loss for the place he left. We often refer to this as “brain drain” from the hinterlands, implying that those who stay lack the merit or ability to “get out.”
But that old notion is getting dusty.
The nation’s most populous cities, the bicoastal pillars of aspiration — New York City and Los Angeles — are experiencing population declines, most likely driven by unaffordability…
BY KAYCIE STUSHEK, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT NETWORK COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Congratulations to the champions who have been recognized by the WV Brownfields Assistance Centers for their innovation, collaboration, and hard work on the redevelopment of brownfields across the region!
The WV Brownfield Awards are presented every year at the WV Brownfields Conference. These awards celebrate the great work happening in the field of brownfield redevelopment, and to honor the innovation, passion, and excellence of West Virginians working in this area.
We are lucky enough to work with a few of of these award winners who are participating in the latest round of the Blueprint Communities program:
- Matt Ford, President of the Meadow River Valley Association, who was recognized with the Community Engagement award, and
- Martin Howe, President, MVB Community Development Corporation, who was recognized with the Local Leadership award.
Congratulations also to the teams at the City of Milton; Wyoming County Economic Development Authority’s Barkers Creek Industrial Park project; and WVU Department of Public Administration on their awards!
What is a brownfield?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a brownfield as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
The WV Brownfields Assistance Centers describe the value of redeveloping these properties:
Brownfields can be redeveloped in many different ways: old industrial buildings can be turned into new real estate, new building can occur on cleared sites, and community infrastructure and aesthetics can be improved by creating more greenspace.
Brownfield redevelopment helps to:
- Turn community health and safety liabilities into community assets;
- Create new, local jobs;
- Increase property values;
- Eliminate eyesores;
- Enhance economic/tax base development;
- Support sustainable use of land, by preserving greenfields and preventing sprawl; and
- Links economic vitality with environmental benefits.