Champaign county speaks up

By Diana Blickensderfer

The first of nine “county-wide conversations” were held last night at 7 p.m. at Urbana Middle School, 1201 S. Vine St.

The meeting kicked off a new community project, the “big.small.all.champaign county.,” where all persons living in Champaign County are invited to attend sessions to express concerns about local issues. The goal is to produce a plan of action in order to address the community’s concerns.

Gianni Longo, a Champaign County consultant, describes the project as, “The biggest brainstorm that has happened for a while in this community.”

People of all ages came for different reasons. Champaign resident Bob Herendeen attended the meeting because he has lived in Champaign for “a long time” and has a “concern for the community and a deep concern about resource issues.”

At the meeting, Champaign County citizens were split into nine small groups in order to brainstorm ideas of how to make Champaign County better.

“People need to develop a broad agreement on important initiatives if we’re going to agree with them,” said Frank DiNovo, planning and community development director.

Among the many ideas and concerns brought up, major issues included a want for excellent public schools, public transportation improvements, a better water supply, minimization of sprawl, better bikeways countywide, preservation of nature and reduction in pollution.

The new project is a way to get a big “group of citizens together to think as a county as a whole,” Longo said.

DiNovo said it is important for the people of Champaign County to change their thinking from “‘they ought to’ to ‘we ought to'” because it is everyone’s job to make a difference in the county.

All ideas were documented and will be added into a database and posted on the Internet. This database of community suggestions will then be used to create specific goals for the county, Longo said.

It is important for citizens with ideas to find out whom they need to talk to and to figure out how to get their goals achieved, DiNovo said. These meetings are a big help.

“In the interest of pursuing action, like minded people need to get together,” DiNovo said.

Bruce Knight, Steering Committee Co-Chair, stressed the importance of getting involved and spreading the word about the new project. The next meeting is on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Rantoul Township High School, 200 S. Sheldon St.

More Box:

For dates and times of upcoming meetings and for more information on “big.small.all.champaign county.,” visit www.bigsmallall.cc.