During Wednesday’s PPC/MPO Board meeting, the Board recognized October as Community Planning Month. The American Planning Association (APA) designated October as National Community Planning Month to highlight the role of planners and planning in communities. This year’s theme is the role planning plays in creating healthy communities. Throughout the United States and its territories, communities are recognizing the importance of planning and the value it can bring to a community, just as we are in Pinellas County.
Planning is all about engaging and interacting with our community. That’s one of the most important aspects of what we do as planners. There are all kinds of ways to engage our community. The list of our outreach efforts is long and well-documented. The MPO has an entire plan devoted to public participation, which is evaluated on a regular basis.
The elected officials who serve on PPC/MPO Board supply us with guidance and direction. Our Board members provide valuable information on what they see and hear from their constituents and peers, but they are not trained as planners. For Community Planning Month, we provided each Board member with a copy of Start-Up City by Gabe Klein, a book focused on innovation, public-private entrepreneurship, partnerships and how to get things done.
Recently, the PPC/MPO began an effort to analyze and improve our online presence. Right now, the PPC and MPO each have their own website. We are in the process of integrating them and making them easier to use. The MPO currently uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and TellUsPinellas to engage with our community at a time and place that is convenient for them. In addition, we started this blog several weeks ago and plan for it to continue to evolve and grow, providing another opportunity for the community to comment and engage with us.
At the same time, as we evaluate and strengthen our online interactions, we recognize that it is equally important to engage our community in person. We work with community partners to identify and attend events throughout Pinellas County. In the past few weeks, we have attended back-to-school events, public workshops, city council meetings and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) meetings, just to name a few! This week, the PPC/MPO attended Stetson University’s Health Fair on October 13th. Upcoming events we will be attending include:
- Saturday, October 17th – Tarpon Springs Oktoberfest
- Friday, October 23rd – John’s Pass Seafood Festival
- Saturday, October 24th – Heritage Village Country Jubilee.
As we continue to engage with our community, we are exploring ways to continue celebrating Pinellas County’s diverse places. Our interactions with the public continually present us with new ideas on how we can highlight our great places and fulfill a shared vision for Pinellas County and its unique spaces. Recently, our staff engaged with fellow planners at a walking tour of Safety Harbor, part of a series sponsored by the local Sun Coast section of APA Florida. The PPC/MPO is hosting an event, Implementing Complete Streets through the MPO, on October 20th.
Another effort we are embarking on is a street profile series. We will be highlighting streets throughout Pinellas County (sneak peak: 4th Avenue South in St. Petersburg will be our first street profile), discussing what makes the street special and why it provides value to us and our community. As part of the profile development, we will be speaking with city planners, residents and business owners to understand and convey their story.
The PPC/MPO is developing a comprehensive communications strategy that will document how we approach outreach. The focus of this strategy is on our emphasis areas of enhancing beach access, the Gateway and a vision for US 19. Over the next two years, we will be engaging the community in discussions about these areas and how we can work together to plan for our future.
As we continue our planning efforts, we would like to hear from you. How would you like to see us engage with the Pinellas County community?