Vision for the Valley volunteers eager to get to work

Here's how they'll start translating the Vision for the Valley into concrete actions to improve life, health and prosperity.

awebb@idahostatesman.comSeptember 29, 2009 

They didn't waste much time.

One day after the Idaho Statesman published a list of 23 action items to make the Vision for the Valley project a reality, volunteers were back at work.

Monday they sketched out tangible steps for everything from improving air quality, to making more kids ready for kindergarten, to strategizing ways to make public transportation available to the people who need it.

And based on lobbying from Healthwise CEO Don Kemper, who didn't think culture got its due, they added a seventh category: arts. The other six are the economy, transportation, healthy people, healthy environment, education and the nonprofit community.

The 22-member steering committee is made of volunteers from across the Treasure Valley who span professional and civic disciplines.

It started meeting in January to create a list of action items.

Steering committee Chairman Rich Raimondi, a retired vice president from Hewlett-Packard, said the goal is to complete or make major progress on each of the items within one year.

Here's a sampling of what volunteers will do next:

ECONOMY

BoDo developer Mark Rivers said it's urgent for the economic group to make a real-time assessment of the Valley's economic strengths and weaknesses.

Companies have been using measures taken before the recession, when the community was strategizing about ways to bring companies here, Rivers said.

"Now, no one's going anywhere. Maybe we should be talking about growing the talent that's here already."

Rivers said his group will meet in the next 30 days to pull together local economists and up-to-date studies.

TRANSPORTATION

Rachel Winer, executive director of Idaho Smart Growth, said she wants people in the community to understand that transportation is wider than Ada County, and involves more than the bus system.

She's looking forward to connecting with hospitals and health care organizations, including the local veterans home, to gather real stories about the people who need transportation.

The transportation group will meet again in October.

HEALTHY PEOPLE

This group, which includes Dave Duro from the YMCA and John Lung from the Mountain States Tumor Institute, proposed combating childhood obesity - which can affect the health of adults later in life - by concentrating on a small community, like a school.

Families would get training about healthy eating and reworked lunch menus, then use Twitter and Facebook to spread the news of their progress.

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Tim Breuer of the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley said that clean air needs a champion - and might now have one.

Developer Peter O'Neil has said he'll reinvigorate the Treasure Valley Air Quality Council, a panel originally appointed by former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, to study the pollution problem.

EDUCATION

Kelly Wood from Wells Fargo said that getting more volunteer involvement in schools - from empty-nesters to laid-off job seekers - is key.

The group wants to find ways to get the word out through churches and other organizations.

Based on the success of United Way's Born Learning program that helps prep kids for kindergarten, the education group also plans to go after federal grants to expand the program.

CARING COMMUNITY

Two of the most urgent goals, said Bev Harad, are training volunteers for different kinds of services in the Valley and helping them connect to the nonprofit organizations that need them.

"We also need to encourage all Treasure Valley cities to create a diversity advisory board within their mayors' offices," Harad said.

ARTS

Mark Hofflund, managing director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, said arts can be integrated into each of the other categories and that employers often speak about how the cultural life of a community attracts workers.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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