Lancaster needs better schools, not health care, say leaders

Participants at Lancaster2020. Photo by Russell Frost.

On November 11, 2008, as many as 275 Lancaster residents attended a day-long summit for local leaders, Lancaster2020. They identified four pressing issues for county leaders to rally around: education, economic development, streamline bureaucracy, and rethink zoning policies.

The event was run by AmericaSpeaks, and participation was by invitation only. The invitations came from a steering committee composed of representatives from the three sponsoring organizations—the Lancaster County Community Foundation, the United Way of Lancaster County, and The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry

The organizers were hoping for a turnout of 350 participants. Part of the participation shortfall came from a lack of private sector leaders accepting invitations, and another part came from a near-total lack of elected officials (Mike Sturla being the only exception).

At any rate, here are more details on the top four opportunities as identified during that day-long summit (and no, I was not a participant):

  1. Ensure access to quality education
    Promote strong and purposeful partnership between school district and community-based programs focuses on successful youth. Provide school districts with resources to improve graduation rates.
  2. Attract and grow business
    Make Lancaster County a viable place for businesses. Create policies and tax opportunities to attract established businesses to the area. Promote and support entrepreneurial businesses including cultural and arts businesses.
  3. Reduce duplication and improve efficiency of public services.
    Improve communication efforts within sectors, i.e., municipal governments, school districts, nonprofits, and for profits. Reward collaborative efforts by aligning funding sources (not-for-profit, for-profit and public/government) and reducing duplicate services. Create tax incentives that encourage governments to cooperate with each other or consolidate services.
  4. Establish innovative land-management zoning practices
    Encourage collaborative land-management programs and policies that address issues such as high-density housing, increased brown field and urban development, rehabilitate/reuse policies, farmland preservation, and municipal partnerships.

Another interesting detail is the breakdown by age:

  • 15–19: 12%
  • 20–34: 9%
  • 35–44: 22%
  • 45–54: 28%
  • 65 & older: 29%

The list of “honorable mention” opportunities, which were identified but did not make it into the top four, is also interesting:

  • Improve financial stability of residents
    Ensure basic needs are being met through opportunities to work, finish school, or enroll in vocational training. Increase residents’ financial literacy so sound financial decisions are made.
  • Increase equity and inclusion
    Create and implement cross-cultural events to enhance positive intercultural relationships to reduce discrimination. Provide a safe forum for dialogue. Encourage policies that promote justice, inclusion and understanding of all people regardless of race, gender, religion, culture, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. Increase collaboration between community, government, and faith-based leaders to reduce fear and promote inclusively.
  • Recruit and train next generation leaders
    Recognize and support the community’s young leaders. Develop a young leader’s leadership program and fold these people into significant leadership gatherings. Recognize and promote leadership voices.
  • Increase citizen involvement and volunteerism.
    Promote active citizenship and public participation as the responsibility of every individual. Ensure opportunities for citizen dialogue, participation and engagement via public forums and flexible regulations and policies.
  • Improve infrastructure and public services
    Invest in infrastructure improvements, such as, roadways, water, sewer, bridges, broadband services, etc. Invest in an expanded, countywide public transportation system to increase access to job opportunities in hard-to-reach locations.
  • Align economic development activities across sectors
    Align economic activities across not-far-profit, for-profit, and public/governmental organizations. Build on the county’s economic plan to enhance regional prosperity.
  • Create safe and attractive neighborhoods
    Implement a neighborhood (city, suburban, and rural) plan that includes safety precautions via lights and built environment (e.g., hedgerows, natural surveillance systems) and promotes aesthetics and beautification. Ensure that streets, footpaths, and cycle paths are well lit and well maintained. Increase citizens’ sense of community pride and promote citizen ownership of the neighborhoods.
  • Invest in sound environmental practices
    Reward efforts to improve air, water, and soil quality. Provide tax incentives far sound environmental practices such as green roofs, rain water run off collection systems, green buildings, lower emissions, and enhanced public transportation.

It’s worth mentioning that some participants were bothered that health care did not make it even to the “honorable mentions.”