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Friday, March 24, 2017

Villages in Transition: Civic Involvement Key to Area’s Future

During the Villages in Transition III community summit on April 8, local leaders, elected officials and residents gathered at South Mountain Community College to assess the current state of the South Mountain area and address how to properly plan for the future.

And while an exact outlook remains uncertain, what’s become clear is the need for greater community engagement.

“That’s really the takeaway,” said event organizer Greg Brownell. “How do we become more civically engaged?”

Brownell stressed the need for community involvement is critical now, especially from a development perspective, because it ensures elected officials make decisions that help the South Mountain area as whole.

“This idea that you can somehow put together politicians and developers, and you somehow come up with the general benefit for the people is a scary concept,” he added.

According to Steve Glueck, who moderated the Public Safety, The Media and Community Image panel, a community connecting point was likely the obstacle preventing greater civic involvement in the past. The problem was particularly challenging because the South Mountain area lacks a city-owned facility such as a council chambers.

But now a location has emerged. “I think the college is now prepared to step forward – if it hasn’t already – as a facility and forum for community connecting,” said Glueck, who is the executive director of membership development for the South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce.

South Mountain Community College and its leadership taking a role as a community connector is not an accident, said Rob Price, the school’s director of marketing and public relations. It’s a position the institution is serious about embracing.

“Of course, our role first and foremost is as an educational resource,” Price said. “But when you really consider the definition of community education, it goes way beyond classroom learning.”

This summer’s opening of the new college library, which will serve both students and residents, is almost certain to expand SMCC’s community presence. At the very least, Price said the attraction will introduce more residents to the campus.

“We really are becoming the community gathering point,” he said.
On June 21, SMCC will host a moderated discussion where residents can voice their questions and concerns to all official Phoenix mayoral candidates. The free event, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Performance Hall, is being presented in association with the South Mountain/Laveen Chamber of Commerce, the South Mountain Village Festivals Committee and the SMCC President’s Community Advisory Council.

Without question, there are many worthy ideas for the South Mountain area, stated RE/MAX New Heights Realty owner Victor Vidales, who shared his “Between the 7s” vision during the Transition event. What’s different these days is those ideas are now reaching more influential audiences.

As a result of the April 8 event, Vidales will present his “Between the 7s” vision to the South Mountain Village Planning Committee on July 12.

“What it (Villages in Transition III) has done is given politicians an idea of how the community has changed and how long we’ve been doing the work we’re doing,” he added.

Vidales points to the first Villages in Transition event held nearly 30 years ago as proof of the consideration given by local leaders to the area’s future.

“These types of events are really key to the community, especially if we’re really going to grow with a cohesive vision of what this area should look like,” he said.

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