"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Grow Smart Rhode Island

Locaton: Rhode Island

Website: www.growsmartri.org

Grow Smart Rhode Island is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that advocates sustainable economic growth that builds upon andstrengthens Rhode Island’s exceptional quality of place.

We work to achieve:

- Revitalized, walkable urban and town centers,

- Housing options and affordability,

- Expanded transportation choices,

- A vital agricultural sector, and

- Responsible stewardship of natural resources.

Grow Smart Rhode Island grew out of a spring 1997 conference that attracted 600 concerned citizens and representatives from organizations and agencies working on the issue of sustainable economic growth, urban revitalization andquality of place in Rhode Island.

Discussions prompted by the conference identified the need for a flexible but focused organization to link these groups and educate citizens, business leaders and elected officials about the impacts of urban disinvestment and the loss of open space in our more rural areas and about state and local policies and strategies to combat these trends. In the 14 years since our founding,

Grow Smart has developed a broad and powerful coalition that includes business and religious leaders, university presidents, builders, realtors, farmers, historic preservationists, environmentalists, affordable housing experts, municipal planners and others.

Our coalition’s accomplishments have been recognized with awards from The Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, the Environmental Business Council of NewEngland, Preserve Rhode Island, Rhode Island Housing EPA’s Region 1Office, and the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Grow Smart Rhode Island’s core values detail the beliefs which underlie the organization’s mission statement and serve as guidelines for the organization’s review of policies, programs and projects.

Grow Smart Rhode Island believes that quality of life means creating a network of healthy and vigorous communities – urban, suburban and rural – that reflect a balance of social, economic and environmental values.

Grow Smart supports economic growth. GSRI defines economic growth as activities that create, or add value to, goods or services and that provide opportunities for people.

Grow Smart believes that a state’s quality of life and environmental health are pivotal in attracting, keeping and growing businesses. A healthy business climate and a healthy environment are therefore part of the overall economic system.

Grow Smart believes that economic development activities should add sustainable and resilient jobs to Rhode Island’s total job pool rather than shifting existing jobs from one area to another.

Grow Smart believes that economic development projects should be evaluated not only for their job creation but also for their potential impacts on statewide industrial and commercial vitality, on the environment, and on the quality of life of the community.

Grow Smart believes that Rhode Island has many under-utilized economic assets, and that planning and policy should foster their maintenance and revitalization.

Grow Smart believes that in order to have a healthy economy, we must have development patterns which can be sustained with a reasonable level of state and local taxes. Scattered development leads to more expensive delivery systems. Therefore, planned growth in or near areas of existing development and infrastructure and the resulting preservation of open space are preferable to sprawl and improve the economic competitiveness of Rhode Island.

Grow Smart believes that as an intensively urbanized state, Rhode Island has a special obligation to make sure that its cities and town centers are attractive, vibrant centers for business and residents.

Grow Smart believes that commercial, industrial, and residential development and government facilities should be focused in areas where there are established centers of development and existing infrastructure.

Grow Smart believes that public monies should not be used to subsidize development beyond existing infrastructure and service areas. Public investment should be used to foster redevelopment in areas of existing infrastructure.

Grow Smart believes that neighborhoods should:

- offer transportation and housing options,

- connect with the broader community by various means of transportation,

- incorporate key services such as shopping, recreation, education, whose design/planning locates houses within ready walking distance of one another, and

- provide quality public spaces such as parks and squares.

Grow Smart believes that new development should be carefully designed to connect with the existing community through jobs and transportation.

Grow Smart believes that it is important to preserve the state’s farmlands, forests, Bay and inland waters, and coastal lands.

Grow Smart believes that these natural resources sustain the state’s farming, fisheries, wood products and tourism industries.

Grow Smart believes that farmlands, forests and open space are important to the character of Rhode Island’s communities and they serve to visually separate the distinct identities of our urban, town and village centers from each other.

Grow Smart believes that farmlands, forests, and coastal lands and our Bay and inland rivers provide recreational opportunities for our citizens and visitors to our state.

Grow Smart believes that forests and open space help to protect our air and water quality.

Grow Smart believes that Federal, state and local transportation funds should be focused on maintaining existing roads and highways, promoting efficient automobile use, and developing mass transit and other alternatives to automobile transportation.

Grow Smart believes that new development should be located near existing centers of development and transit lines and should incorporate the appropriate scale, mixed uses and higher densities which favor alternatives to automobile travel. Planning and implementation for new development should encourage pedestrian, bicycle, public transit, and water transportation.

Grow Smart believes that state and local elected officials should take a leadership position in promoting smart growth and that Rhode Island citizens should hold elected officials responsible for establishing and implementing effective smart growth policies.

Grow Smart recognizes the key role which city and town governments play in shaping growth locally and regionally. Grow Smart believes that effective city and town planning requires professional planning staff at the local level and a state planning agency equipped to provide local communities with training and technical assistance as needed.

Grow Smart believes that Rhode Island’s heavy reliance on the local property tax to fund public education and other community services adversely impacts decisions as to where development is located. We should seek to identify and implement alternative funding sources to reduce our reliance on the local property tax.

Grow Smart believes that state and local governments, in partnership with the private sector, should promote and implement policies which encourage private sector investment in urban and town centers.

Grow Smart believes that all zoning must conform to the local comprehensive plan and that proposed zone changes that do not conform to the comprehensive plan must be discouraged, as stipulated in Rhode Island law,.

Grow Smart believes that local planning should stress regional cooperation with neighboring cities and towns.

Grow Smart believes that smart growth is best achieved when there is a strong and effective statewide planning process. This process is best achieved through a strong state planning agency with effective powers to shape growth in Rhode Island and with sufficient staffing and funding.

Grow Smart believes that the State of Rhode Island and its departments and agencies play a large role in determining the location and character of development and redevelopment in RI. These agencies should, through their policies, programs and procedures, focus development in existing centers of development and in designated, well-planned new centers of development.

Grow Smart believes that citizens should actively participate in creating and implementing a statewide vision for the state’s future development.

Grow Smart will actively solicit the opinions and ideas of all Rhode Islanders and promote public debate about the future direction of our state.

Grow Smart will study Rhode Island’s current patterns of physical development to further our understanding of their social, economic and environmental impacts.

Grow Smart will provide comprehensive, objective and reliable information about growth.

Grow Smart will emphasize both the importance of government leadership and the critical role which private-sector decisions play in determining the future direction of Rhode Island’s physical development.

Grow Smart will educate, participate in public affairs, and build coalitions to influence public policy.

Grow Smart will work with other like-minded organizations to avoid duplication of effort.

Grow Smart will review selected policies, procedures and projects for their impact on the quality of growth in Rhode Island. Grow Smart may take public positions on policies, procedures and projects which have regional and statewide implications and may advocate for outcomes that further smart growth in the state.

Grow Smart Rhode Island is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that advocates sustainable economic growth that builds upon and strengthens Rhode Island’s exceptional quality of place.

We work to achieve:

- Revitalized, walkable urban and town centers,

- Housing options and affordability,

- Expanded transportation choices,

- A vital agricultural sector, and

- Responsible stewardship of natural resources.

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