Vision for the Valley: We treasure our valley

Our View

January 11, 2009 

This is a Vision for the Valley — shared and shaped by more than three dozen of the area’s leaders. By people who are committed to the future of the Valley. By people who are understandably concerned about the tough times facing our community. And by people who, frankly, are frustrated that the region has failed to address some of its problems.

PETE ZIMOWSKY

This is a Vision for the Valley - shared and shaped by more than three dozen of the area's leaders. By people who are committed to the future of the Valley. By people who are understandably concerned about the tough times facing our community. And by people who, frankly, are frustrated that the region has failed to address some of its problems.

These leaders applied their experience in business, education, nonprofits and government to Vision for the Valley, an editorial project the Statesman launched in August. Our goal then - and now - is to encourage the community to make good decisions during this economic downturn, positioning the Valley to prosper as the economy rebounds.

Thirty-nine people took up the challenge, and accepted our invitation to attend summit meetings to draw up a vision. Many of these people found time in their schedules - twice - by coming back Monday for a followup meeting. Some are already talking about next steps: meetings designed to move from vision to reality.

This level of commitment says a lot:

First, it underscores a recurring theme from the meetings. One of the Valley's finest attributes is the fact that, even after 20 years of rapid growth, it remains a community where it is easy to get involved, easy to affect change. Because the Valley is self-contained and isolated from any major metropolis, it is a place conducive to innovative and locally driven solutions - such as the successful grass-roots campaigns to protect Foothills open space and create the College of Western Idaho.

Second, it shows urgency. We launched this project in response to the economic downturn - and the downturn lent the project momentum. Adversity provides impetus. Says John Hale, a managing partner with KPMG LLC, an accounting firm that provides economic advice to lenders: "Up until a certain point you can lay back and allow the good life to be the good life. At some point, you have to take action to protect it."

The good life doesn't feel like a given these days.

Third, and somewhat surprisingly, it comes with a jaded undertone. Several participants said they wanted to see followup, accountability and measurable results. These are successful leaders who are accustomed to, and accomplished at, getting results. And yet, on issues ranging from transportation to job creation to education, they are as impatient as anyone else in the Valley.

It's important to read the Vision for the Valley, and the accompanying action plan, in that context.

Almost everything in the vision and the action plan has been said before. We have consciously decided to avoid specific public policy proposals - in favor of articulating goals that should have widespread support. As a community, let's first buy into the objectives. Then we can work out the mechanics.

We don't claim to chart any unfamiliar territory - that isn't our goal - but this vision and action plan generated some spirited debate.

Some participants were a little bit concerned about placing economic development at the top of the action plan; others said a robust economy was the key to supporting every other piece of the plan.

And many participants pushed for a vision that is forceful, bold, hopeful and urgent. They spoke of the need to protect and enhance what makes the Valley special; the need to invest in the long-range future; and the faith that we can bring our community's talents to bear on solving our problems.

We hope the vision reflects this tone - optimistic yet impatient.

It certainly reflects our mood.

We're impatient.

We want results that we believe will make the Valley a great place to work and start a business, a first-rate place to pursue an education, an easy place to live manageably, and an exciting place to spend leisure time.

We're also optimistic. When we're surrounded by talented and determined people, it is infectious.

And it is how shared visions are realized.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment or suggest a topic, e-mail editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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