Friday, March 17, 2006

Does this bother you?

I received this e-mail today. Approaching this from a journalist's viewpoint, anybody have a problem with this? I'll see if anybody comments, then give you my thoughts.

CHARLOTTE – March 17, 2006 – The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute will host the first in a series of ongoing seminars around the topic of "Reporting on Growth & Open Space," on May 23 at UNC Charlotte. The three-year program is funded through a $225,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and reflects the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to both journalism excellence and open space protection in the greater Charlotte region. The program is designed to assist reporters, editors and other media professionals in exploring ways to effectively report on open space and land use planning issues in the Charlotte region.

The May 23 seminar is titled "Environmental Journalism for the 21st Century: Out of the Woods, Into the Great Wide Open." As the first of a scheduled nine seminars to be held over the next three years, this first seminar will explore the growing importance of growth and open space-related news in both the nation’s and the region’s media. The keynote speaker is Stuart Leavenworth, associate editor of The Sacramento Bee, and a nationally-recognized environmental journalist. Leavenworth previously worked at the Raleigh News & Observer.
In recent years, open space and land use-related news has become increasingly important due to Charlotte’s rapid population growth. This growth, coupled with the Charlotte region’s ongoing pattern of low density development, has had a pronounced impact on the region’s physical landscape and quality of life. In particular, the rapid conversion of land into suburban-style subdivisions has contributed to traffic congestion, reduced air quality, diminished tree canopies, and school overcrowding. Many new government policies and grass-roots initiatives have emerged to preserve open space and to plan for better development. Local media need to report not only on these policies and initiatives, but also on the connection between land use and other public policy concerns, such as education, economic development and public health.

Through these seminars, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute will work with journalists to enhance their understanding of complex land use planning issues, including the legal and political framework within which open space and land use decisions are made. The Institute will draw upon the experiences of other journalists around the United States to identify effective and innovative approaches to reporting on open space and land use planning issues. As part of the Knight Foundation grant, the Institute is also conducting a regional survey of citizens to help journalists assess public opinion on open space and land use issues. The results of this survey will be presented at the second seminar to be held in late summer/early fall 2006.

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute has long served as an objective resource for reporters in the Charlotte region on land use issues, according to Jeff Michael, the Institute’s director. "Rarely does a month go by that we don’t get at least one call from a reporter in the region seeking clarification or a better understanding of a land use issue," Michael said. "The quality of any public policy debate, whether it concerns land use, education or economic incentives, is dependent upon having a well-informed public. Obviously, the press plays a critical role in educating the public about complex policy issues and their relevance to people’s daily lives. With the Knight Foundation’s generous support, we hope to assist the region’s media outlets as they strive to fulfill that role."

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan applied research and community outreach unit of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that, among other things, conducts research and public education on regional land use planning issues. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.


Ron Schaeffer said...

This is closely related to the message I have introduced over the last couple of days. I believe that water supply and sewage treatment is one of the biggest obstacles to growth and change facing Cleveland County during the next 5 years and into the future.

State legislators could put a $1Billion water and sewage bond issue on the ballot this fall. I am concerned about rogue add-ons or supporting legislation that may try to dictate open space or land use policies from Raleigh that may not be in the best interests of Cleveland County.

This is evidenced with billions of dollars being provided for light rail in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. This new program being funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation would act as the marketing arm of this movement and as such could very well serve as a precursor to eminent domain issues here in Cleveland County. And not to mention additional tax increases.

Our pocketbooks and property rights are at stake.

This could be turned to our advantage with proper planning and management.

For example, a cooperative effort between Cleveland Community College, Gardner-Webb University and private sector investments in the area of bio-tech education and research combined with an aggressive travel and tourism development plan highlighting elite athletic events, we could see Cleveland County hosting lucrative NCAA sporting events in the near future. (i.e. parlaying the 2008 American Legion World Series into a super regional NCAA baseball tournament or even greater opportunities of a regional NCAA basketball tournament.)

Our strategic location as the cross roads of the north and the south with the allures of Big City Culture to the east and serene mountain settings to the west, we are well positioned for future prosperity.

John Mayrose said...

The Urban Institute is offering a real service to the region's journalists in explaining the interlocking relationships between land conservation and quality of life issues. I hope the reporters of the Star will be among the first to sign up for such an informative seminar. When our journalists understand the issues, we all benefit!