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Survey cites transportation as key Asheville-Buncombe issue
They called, sent, faxed, and e-mailed their choice for the most important issue facing Asheville and Buncombe County. Approximately 400 people cast their votes recently during a week of polling by VISION for Asheville-Buncombe County. Voting July 24-31, residents were given a choice of four topic questions. Some 138 residents said the crucial question for our area to address is: "How can we create a transportation system that meets the needs of individuals, the community, and the environment?"
That question will now be the focus of discussions in small-group settings of 8-10 people in approximately 20 different groups throughout Asheville and Buncombe County. "Let’s Talk! Dialogues for Our Future" will begin this fall, with residents exploring this issue, exchanging viewpoints, and perhaps developing some action steps to begin moving toward common goals. "In cities that adopted community dialogues years ago, hearing people’s perspectives on issues helped government, community leaders, and citizens come up with workable and appropriate solutions that benefited the whole community, not just pockets of neighborhoods or individuals with the loudest voices," said VISION director Greg Stamey.
"The selection of transportation as the VISION Community Dialogues topic for 2000 has generated an enthusiastic response from concerned citizens throughout Asheville and Buncombe County," said Stamey.
Stacy Anderson, co-chair of the Children First and Junior League of Asheville’s Child Watch Tour, said "We are very excited about transportation being the topic of the Community Dialogues. There are some wonderful services and programs in our community, but they aren’t effective if people can’t get to them. Public transportation is an important issue in our community, and we are pleased that the Child Watch Tour raised public awareness of these issues."
Linda Giltz, a planning official with the Land of Sky Regional Council, is excited about opportunities for the public to discuss transportation-related issues. "Our region in western North Carolina is steadily growing in population, number of automobiles, and miles of road. Developing additional transportation options will benefit residents, tourists, employers, local governments, and other service providers, with safer, less congested roads, less time spent in traffic, and additional mobility for the entire population, especially the elderly and people without access to automobiles. We need to examine the needs of people in our region."
Bruce Black, director of the City of Asheville’s Transit Services Department, welcomes the opportunity to increase public awareness of available transportation options. "The major concerns of my staff," he says, "are greater accessibility and helping potential riders to understand how to use the service. Changes are being made in the bus system, but many residents are unaware of the resources currently available to them. The community dialogues will give people a chance to have constructive input and to generate discussion about transportation alternatives."
VISION, which will be sponsoring the community dialogues, is a nonprofit organization of community members and leaders, supported by businesses and organizations, whose goal is to make Asheville and Buncombe County a better place for work, recreation, retirement, and family life. The Community Dialogues for 2000 will be held weekly in October.
"People who want to make a difference in their community can help in a number of ways," says local attorney Joseph McGuire, chair of the VISION’s Community Dialogues Committee. "If they have group discussion experience, they can volunteer to facilitate and take advantage of free facilitator training, which is a very useful skill when dealing with individuals as well as groups. But most important of all, people need to make the commitment to improving their lives by participating in the dialogues. There are only two things they need to bring with them to the discussions, and those are a willingness to share their viewpoints and a willingness to listen to others. That’s where it all begins."
For information on facilitating, forming, or joining a community dialogue group, please call the VISION office at 254-0333 or visit the VISION website atwww.abvision.org. You may write to the VISION office at: AB VISION, PO Box 7435, Asheville, NC 28802.
The final vote tallies are:
1. What are the best ways to provide adequate housing for all citizens and prevent urban sprawl? … 23 percent
2. How can we create a transportation system that meets the needs of individuals, the community, and the environment? … 37 percent
3. What can we do to assure that all our citizens have quality, affordable health care? … 10 percent
4. How can our community provide a thriving economy to support adequate jobs and wages? … 30 percent
TOTAL 378 votes