ALONG THE WAY: David Dix

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The year 2040 may seem a long way off, but in terms of a human generation, it's the next one, the one born today, who will inherit and confront the world the rest of us leave behind.

With that in mind, a group that calls itself the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Corporation, funded by a $4.25 million federal grant, started in 2010 assembling data and reports from the 12 counties it represents.

The data will help those citizen volunteers who show up for a series of forums this year express their aspirations for the 12-county area of Northeast Ohio that most of us call home.

Hunter Morrison, a heavy hitter in planning, explained the NEOSCC and its mission to Kent Rotary Club this past Tuesday. He is a former head of Cleveland's Planning Department. He currently works for Youngstown State University in campus planning, but in his capacity as the executive director of NEOSCC, he will lead the charge for its vision initiative.

Tuesday at Rotary an executive summary of data was distributed. It showed Northeastern Ohio's population having peaked in 1970, but those of us remaining having spread out and occupying more land. It shows funds for infrastructure maintenance declining, but travel on roads increasing. It shows air quality failing to meet standards and even with more forested lands now than before, diversity of species declining. Farm acreage dropped, but the size of farms increased, the data shows.

Complementing these macro studies are vision and planning documents currently being drawn up within each of the 12 counties. Todd Peetz, the Portage County planner, and several of his classmates from the Class of 2010 of Leadership Portage County have been assembling data to compose a Portage County vision plan and will submit its contents to NEOSCC within the next two months.

I used to be skeptical of planning and vision exercises because it is difficult to get individual Americans to agree and work together. I now believe these exercises can set goals and benchmarks that help us understand ourselves and measure our progress. Barring an actuarial miracle, I won't see 2040, but I am very much interested in learning what the public thinks we should be in 2040 and I think those forums can be productive. More than a decade ago I participated in a vision exercise for the Kent community and many aspects of the vision that emerged are coming to pass.

Times and places for the forums will be announced.

Todd Peetz for two decades was a planner in the Orlando, Fla., area before coming back to Ohio to work for Portage County. He says vision exercises and planning documents have helped the people of central Florida to set goals and measure their progress as a community.

Todd said even he was skeptical of vision exercises early on, but during his two decades in Florida witnessed much of the vision those exercises produced coming into focus. "The idea is to see the bigger picture and share goals," he said.

Fairmount involved at Mount Union

Kent attorney John Flynn, recently named a trustee of the University of Mount Union in Alliance, said he was surprised and pleased to encounter in his capacity as a new trustee the developer Randy Ruttenberg of Fairmount Properties, which is still busy building up portions of downtown Kent that Ron Burbick hasn't already rebuilt.

Fairmount, John said, is doing a project in Alliance in conjunction with the University of Mount Union. It's called the Mount Union Gateway and will be located just off the campus at the southwest corner of State Street and Clark Avenue. Included in the development will be a Panini's Bar and Grill, a national coffee shop, a smoothie and fresh juice bar, a full-service bank, other service providers and merchants.

Ground-breaking is expected in the spring.

This will be the third development Fairmount has undertaken in area communities with institutions of higher learning. Besides the Kent project, which is being coordinated with Kent State, Fairmount is helping Hiram College develop its retirement village adjacent to the campus. Fairmount also built First and Main in Hudson.

KSU Orchestra showcases talent

I do not know the ticket sale figures, but changing the times of the Kent State University Orchestra concerts from Sunday evenings to Sunday afternoons at Cartwright Hall on the campus does appear to have increased attendance. The audience is composed of a nice mix of students and others from the university as well as those of us not employed by KSU enjoy orchestral music.

The Kent State University Orchestra has been led by wonderful conductors, but none any more wonderful than Liza Grossman, the current music director. She's a gifted teacher who generously showcases students. Grossman engenders enthusiasm and these performances are exciting.

For the third concert of the season, on Feb. 10, Yang Zeng, an undergraduate violinist, accompanied by the orchestra, performed the first movement of a Dvorak concerto and elicited an enthusiastic response. He was followed by violoncellist Jose L. Herrera's exuberant performance of the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, which, accompanied by the orchestra, brought down the house.

The orchestra finished up with Gustav Holst's "The Planets," a work so popular and familiar that some of us in the audience found ourselves humming portions of it going home.

Kudos for Kent State alumna

Judie Zimomra, the city manager of Sanibel Island, Fla., in late December was named Public Servant of the Year by the Fort Myers News Press, the daily newspaper of Lee County.

A native of Newton Falls and an alumna of Kent State University, Judie is completing 12 years at the helm of Sanibel Island, which last year was ranked by Frommer's Guide as the top tourist destination of the year.

She led the community through the perils of Hurricane Charlie, which flattened portions of the coastal island city in 2004. The National Hurricane Conference the following year recognized her for the way she organized her community's response. Sanibel's amazing recovery owes much of its success to Judie's tireless and inspired leadership.

A new KSU landmark

If you have not yet been to the KSU Library to see the models for the proposed new School of Architecture building, they were still up when I visited Wednesday. My preferences are the ones by Weiss/Manfredi and Reed Leskosky, but knowing nothing about architecture I defer to those who do. Go to caedcomments@kent.edu if you want to see the models.SClB

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  • $4.25 Million? For what? What ever happened to volunteers?

  • Ms. Judie Zimomra 'needs' to dampen the cost of crossing the bridge that goes to Sanibel Island, Florida. I am not specifically pointing a finger at Judie, but the powers that be, have been soaking the public for years. I used to make sales calls selling building materials and 'unfortunately' one day had to make four trips from Ft. 'Misery' to Sanibel, back in 1982, and they soaked me the cost each and every time, that I had to make that cross.