Monday, August 01, 2011

SoundVision: Engaging the Public

The Connecticut Mirror has the first comprehensive story about the SoundVision Action Plan, which is being released today in Mamaroneck (the first of a series of seven announcements around Long Island Sound over the next five weeks).

Here are some excerpts, in italics.

A key to the plan is to get the public engaged again in the Sound:

"We constantly tell [people] that Long Island Sound is not doing as great as it should be," said Leah Lopez Schmalz of Save the Sound, a program of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "But what are they supposed to do about that?"

... It includes a two-year Citizen Action Agenda, two dozen generalized points distilled from many dozens of short, intermediate and long-range goals in the larger report--a 10-year blueprint, though with no specific policy or legislative recommendations yet.

The points are grouped in four categories roughly corresponding to cleaning the water, creating and preserving wildlife habitat, re-inventing shoreline communities and businesses related to the Sound, and securing funding for projects.

Underlying all of it is citizen engagement. The three dozen members of the committee--environmental advocacy, business, scientific and other interested organizations from Connecticut and New York -- discovered through focus groups that people's relationships with the Sound has eroded due to a literal inability to get to it and a failure to integrate programs related to it across broad spectrums of business, community and government.

...Joe McGee, vice president for public policies for the Business Council of Fairfield County, one of the organizations represented on the Sound Vision committee, said his group pushed for action after noticing that Long Island Sound had dropped off the list of priorities for businesses in his area.

He believes the reason is that same lack of public engagement and lays some of the blame on the very organizations that advocate for the Sound, citing competition among them for status related to their fundraising needs. But he, like others, said in the end, the groups came together in a unified, message that dovetails their goals which he thought would help bring businesses and the people to work in them to the state.

"Long Island Sound is such a treasure; it's a major piece of what makes Connecticut, Connecticut," he said. "To attract young people, the environmental stewardship component is very important. We have to show that this place isn't a junkyard.

"Part of the branding of the state of Connecticut has got to have the issue of environment and Long Island Sound."

Click here for the Connecticut Mirror story.


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