Tuesday, February 8, 2011

News-Press Commentary: Local leaders, community gather to plot Lee County's future

News-Press 2/8/11, by
MerriBeth Farnham

On Friday, Feb. 11, local leaders and
future leaders will have a chance to interact
with an impressive group of experts who
will be offering their predictions of how Lee
County will look in the year 2035.

At an informational symposium they will
share their ideas on actions, which, if taken
now, will make our future one that entices
our children and their children to make Lee
County home.

The free symposium, Lee County in the
Year 2035, at Harborside Event Center, is
the third in a series of workshops hosted
by the law firm Fowler White Boggs in
connection with our volunteer group,
Reconnecting Lee County.

Fowler White Boggs has been gracious to
not only host our meetings and financially
support all three of these events, we are
especially grateful for the law firm’s vision,
resources, and its highly recognized
expertise in land use.

When our volunteer think-tank group,
Reconnecting Lee County formed, it was
because we saw a toppled economy,
record-breaking foreclosure rates and the
results of decades of suburban sprawl.

We could do nothing in the short run to
reverse the economic downturn, but we
saw an opportunity to help ourselves at the
local level by investigating alternative ways
to promote sustainable growth.

We asked ourselves, our elected and
appointed local government leaders,
experts, both local and from afar and from
a variety of professions, whether we were
heading in the right direction or whether we
could do better if we redirected our growth
patterns towards a revitalization of our
traditional urban centers.

For the past two years, RLC has reached
out to these experts and leaders, looking
to them for practical ideas and solutions
which our community could embrace. To
our delight, we found that many of our
elected and private sector leaders were
asking for answers to the same questions.

The Feb. 11 symposium is the culmination
of three such events hosted by Fowler
White Boggs, bringing together the best
and brightest in the fields of health,
economics, transportation and land use
planning to discuss how Lee County could,
on its own, enhance the quality of life of its
existing citizens while attracting “good
growth” that will make our community
healthier and our economy more

The experts all agree that a bright,
sustainable and well-balanced community
is one which will include walkable
neighborhoods located near effective

Imagine strolling a block or two from home
to a light rail or bus rapid transit station
that carries you to within a couple of blocks
from work, school, your doctor, shopping
and entertainment.

This vision is one which is either in study or
in development in many cities across the
world today. Those places will be our
economic competitors in the future.

At the symposium, high school honor
students from throughout Lee County will
join recognized leaders, including (just to
name a few):

• Jim Nathan, President of the Lee
Memorial Health System

• Linda Shelly, Fowler White Boggs attorney
and former DCA Secretary.

• Tom Scott, Lee County School Board

• Renowned Economist Henry Fishkind.

Why should this matter to the person who
needs a job now?

It matters greatly because today's choices
will significantly impact the way we live,
move and act in the future.

Challenging times call for innovative
solutions and they also tend to bring
leaders to the forefront.

I, for one, am excited at Lee County's
prospects for the future.

I invite you to attend the symposium Lee
County in the Year 2035 on Friday and get

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