April 16, 2014
by jhavens
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High Capacity for Public Engagement in Transit

Rogue Valley Transportation District RVTD CPW Community Planning Workshop For the past four months, my Community Planning Workshop (CPW) team has been working with the Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) to gather perceptions of transit services in the Rogue Valley region. The perceptions will help RVTD better understand the feasibility of implementing a High Capacity Transit system in the region. With a number of moving parts within the project, much of the work we’ve done thus far (meetings, policy analysis, survey development, and background research) has been done to prepare for the central focus of the project – public participation.

With one afternoon of intercept surveying under our belt, we set out to Medford, OR on Friday, April 4, to conduct the second round of intercept surveys and our first focus group activity. After a number of coffee induced pit stops, we finally made it to Southern Oregon, leaving the van one-by-one, taking our positions at RVTD bus stops, ready to ask bus riders to participate in our survey.  The team received a total of 33 survey responses, leaving us just eighteen short of our target goal of collecting 100 surveys total.

After a quick lunch and debrief, we arrived at Twin Creeks Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to conduct our first ever focus group.  We had a total of seven members of the Twin Creeks Retirement Community join us for the activity.  The focus group asked the community members to discuss their thoughts on RVTD services, elements of transit that were appealing or important for them, and opinions on sketches displaying what a transit stop in the community could look like. Overall the activity provided wonderful conversation, insightful information, and great next steps.

Essentially the ‘meat’ of the project, public participation is exactly what attracted me to this project and why I’m particularly excited for the remaining months of work.  In the coming weeks, we will engage in a variety of public participation strategies – interviews, online surveys, in-person surveys, focus groups, and meetings. Beyond becoming well versed in public participation strategies, the biggest takeaway for me has been the level of importance RVTD gives to public opinions to inform themselves and their work.

Prior to this project, a conversation about public transportation would have lasted a minute. Since beginning this project, I’ve thought and talked more about transit than I ever knew possible. By the end of this project, our team will have created a community engagement report, providing RVTD all the information, lessons learned, and recommendations gathered from talking to every and any willing soul about transit.

Lokyee Au CPW Community Planning Workshop RVTDAbout the Author: Lokyee Au is a second year Community and Regional Planning and Environmental Studies concurrent master’s student at the University of Oregon. Originally from Los Angeles, Lokyee received her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Environmental Studies from UC San Diego in 2011. She is interested in community development as it relates to social justice.

April 15, 2014
by jhavens
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Meet Our RARE AmeriCorps Participant: Gabby Pauling

Gabby Pauling RARE Resource Assistance for Rural Environments

Gabby Pauling received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Design from Pacific University. As a student, Gabby became increasingly interested in sustainability and food security. After realizing her passions, she became very involved with Pacific University’s permaculture garden. Upon receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Gabby spent a year as an AmeriCorps Vista member at the Phoenix Charter School in Roseburg, Oregon. After her year with RARE AmeriCorps – Resource Assistance for Rural Environments, Gabby hopes to find work that will allow her to continue to make a significant difference in Oregon’s rural communities and environments.

Gabby is placed with NeighborWorks Umpqua, which is a private rural 501(c)(3) organization established in 1991 to develop affordable housing for low and moderate income residents in Douglas County, Oregon. NeighborWorks Umpqua began as Umpqua Community Development Corporation, with the development of the first affordable multi-family rental housing complex in nearly 20 years. In 1999, the organization added community-based economic development to their mission. In addition, NeighborWorks Umpqua expanded their service area to include Coos and Curry counties.

With NeighborWorks Umpqua, Gabby will follow up and initiate implementation of a recently completed comprehensive inventory of regional food systems and resources in Douglas County. Specifically, Gabby will facilitate further building of partnerships with the local farming and agricultural community via an array of outreach activities. Gabby will also work with local organizations and groups to increase the ability to produce and market locally grown products. Additionally, Gabby will work to increase food access to low-income individuals in ways that support local food systems, create opportunities for farmers to create value-added goods at a premium price, make connections between different aspects of the food system, and educate consumers, producers and everyone in between with both formal and informal events.

Organization: NeighborWorks Umpqua
Community: Roseburg
Population: 21,181
County: Douglas

April 14, 2014
by jhavens
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Experts Warn that We Need to Prepare Now →

Socio-Economic Resilience is Key to Recovery After a Disaster Strikes

Josh Bruce OPDR Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience The Ford Family FoundationNo one likes to think that he or she will ever experience a catastrophic event — a natural or manmade disaster that puts lives and communities at risk. Yet we’ve seen it happen again and again — Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in Haiti. Closer to home, we’ve had forest fires in Southern and Central Oregon, train derailments in Eastern Oregon, flooding at the coast and, decades ago, an explosion in Roseburg when a truck loaded with fertilizer and dynamite caught fire.

The reality is that catastrophic events can happen anywhere, at any time. When we talk about a regional disaster in the Northwest, the first thing that comes to mind is a major earthquake. It’s not just a distant possibility. Scientists warn that the next rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, located just off the Pacific coast, may happen in the next 50 years. And it could be devastating — a 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami would wreak devastation from the coast to the Cascades.

We don’t know how or when disaster will strike, but we do know that we need to start getting ready now. The Ford Family Foundation is joining this effort as it embarks on a project to explore socio-economic resilience in rural communities in Oregon and Northern California.

Socio-economic issues — social and financial realities that make up quality of life — are deeply affected by disasters of all kinds. If we are to have healthy communities, we also must have the ability to deal with disasters if they strike. We call that ability “resilience,” and it’s all about making people, communities and systems better prepared to withstand catastrophic events of all kinds. It’s about being able to bounce back more quickly — sometimes even stronger.

This issue of Community Vitality explores a host of issues relating to community resilience. We look at what Oregon is doing to prepare for a potential earthquake and an article on what neighborhoods are doing to build resilience. We also talk with a Ford Opportunity Scholar about her work in Haiti, and to a high school student about her efforts to set up a teen Community Emergency Response Team in her town.

Particularly vulnerable
These kinds of efforts are of vital importance. Although rural communities are used to depending on themselves to some extent, they are particularly vulnerable to large-scale disasters because of fewer resources and access to help during the recovery process.

Communities are perhaps the most important element in a successful recovery from disaster. A survey from the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience (OPDR) found that Oregon residents have more confidence in local efforts to support resilience than national or state-level efforts. This perception seems to be borne out in the wake of actual disasters. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, for example, 31% of the people affected reached out to nearby friends, family and neighbors for help, according to a recent poll from the AP and the University of Chicago. Only 17% reached out to government programs.

Economic development and physical infrastructure, of course, play a big role in recovery efforts, according to the same report. But interestingly, recovery rates after Superstorm Sandy often differed in adjacent neighborhoods — even though they had similar economic and structural resources. The difference? Social resources. Community bonds. Trust. This connectedness could be drawn on, resulting in a faster recovery.

But still, economic resilience is crucial; Oregon respondents to the disaster resilience survey ranked medical services, utilities, and grocery/drug stores as critically important both before and after a catastrophic event. They also expressed concern regarding current conditions of those services. If economic resilience is already at risk, the aftermath of a catastrophic event becomes even more dire.

Earthquake. Fire. Chemical spill. Train derailment. It is up to us to plan for these events now, so our communities will be in a better position to deal with them should they happen. It’s time for us to start figuring out what we can do to prepare. By building resilience, we can prevent disasters from becoming community catastrophes.

Article reprinted with permission; Community Vitality Publication, Spring 2014, © 2014 The Ford Family Foundation. For the full Community Vitality edition of  ”The Time to Prepare”, visit http://www.community-vitality.org/Spring2014TimeToPrepare.html

About the Author: David Frohnmayer was president of the University of Oregon from 1994 to 2009. He served as Oregon’s attorney general from 1981 to 1991. He is a former member of The Ford Family Foundation board of directors.