Process heading toward steps to involve more people developing into a healthy community

The City of Molalla has been working on a visioning process involving more residents to develop a more cohesive community that works for all its citizens. This project began nearly two years ago and one of the things to come out of the process was Celebrate Molalla, a successful event that made people proud of their city.

Last year, more than 500 people responded to a survey asking about their values, likes and what they want to see over the next 10 years in Molalla. Their answers provided the visioning committee a baseline for priorities.

The process now involves interviewing as many people as possible and sifting through the data to make Molalla a stronger, more solid community. Heading this step is Bill Flood, an independent consultant to the process. He is working for the city through grants Molalla received from the Ford Family Foundation.

"The community took a crash when the lumber industry crashed. It doesn't have the identity of nearby towns like Silverton, whose downtown is thriving," said Flood. "On weekends, Silverton streets are crowded. The people in Molalla want to see the same thing here, a thriving downtown with shops and businesses that are busy on weekends.

"I'm interviewing and identifying all sectors of the community to give me their ideas," he added.

Using a process called "SWOT," Flood will determine the (s) assets, (w) internal barriers, (o) external opportunities and (t) threats as placements for the statements he receives. Then when writing his drafts he can build on the strengths, address the barriers and reach out to the opportunities, he said. Once the interviews are wrapped up he will take those pieces of information and create a document for visioning and action plans.

"There are myths among residents floating internally and externally," he said.

And part of his job is to break open these "myths" and look at them, and perhaps tear them apart.

Molalla has a diverse population, Flood said, "In some respects without a strong identity there's a struggle with who the city is and who its citizens are."

And that yields to change, "which is very hard because most of us resist change. But the community is undergoing change. With some things change is inherent and there are claims that [you] change or someone will do it for you," he added.

His questions start with a vision of what people think Molalla will look like in 10 years, sound like and so forth. He will also ask for their values as pertains to the city, what they like and what they see for the future. Since he already knows what some of these are because of the earlier survey, "I won't be surprised," he said. Then he asks the SWOT questions to help develop the plan.

Some of the answers up to now include more grocery stores and more retail establishments, pedestrian amenities like street lights, the ability for children to walk to school safely and getting the streets in good shape with unbroken sidewalks. He's been doing this for awhile; he did some interviewing among the more than 2,000 people at Celebrate Molalla. One of his interviews included a 20-something woman who "was excited about changes going on but also felt some grief [sadness] about current and coming changes."

Among his upcoming interviews are about 35 students from Molalla High School so he can find out their perceptions for the future. After all, these are the people that will run the town in a few years.

Flood plans to interview anywhere from 750 to possibly more than 1,000 people in order to get a good perception of testing values. His next step is to wrap up the interviews and craft a vision and action plan that the city council will review and give feedback on. He hopes to have a draft vision and draft plan by the end of January.

"I think it's important that the community determine their futures, a critical mass of folks, a bunch of people," Flood concluded.

Carol Rosen
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