If Keath Jacoby and Lindsey White have their way, the next strategic plan for Galveston’s future will grow out of the wishes of the wide variety of people who live here.
Jacoby is the project manager and White is the steering committee chair for the newly formed nonprofit, Vision Galveston, which will hold its first public meeting Wednesday night.
The project, designed to define a vision for the city’s future that’s citizen-driven and citizen-inspired, is funded by the Roundtable of Foundations on the island.
The round table is a network of staff and board members representing numerous Galveston charitable foundations, which has met quarterly for more than 10 years to discuss the island’s needs and opportunities for philanthropic support.
“We are asking what kind of city we want to be and what we need to do to get there,” said Jacoby, who grew up in Galveston, moved away for 15 years and has been back for 10 years. She graduated from Ball High School, went to college and worked in a number of other cities and returned to raise her family in the place she calls home.
“I need the island to succeed,” she said.
On Wednesday, Vision Galveston will hold the first in a series of public meetings and outreach sessions to get the public involved in a process that began with conversations between representatives from the Roundtable of Foundations and Galveston city leaders.
“A group from the Roundtable went on a trip to check out Detroit Future City,” Jacoby said. “They were impressed and wowed, and said, ‘We need to run a process like this for Galveston.’”
Detroit Future City has created a 50-year strategic framework of highly detailed, long-term guidance for decision-making in Detroit, through the efforts of a wide range of citizens. The plan was released in 2013 after an extensive three-year outreach, drawing on the opinions and insights of more than 100,000 citizens of Detroit to reimagine a better future for the city that had been in its death throes just a few years before.
Vision Galveston, like Detroit Future City, will drill down to unearth core ideals for the future of this island city that has reinvented itself numerous times over the past century and is experiencing growth in tourism and real estate development.
“This is not a government project,” Jacoby said. “It’s funded by the Roundtable and led by a citizen steering committee that represents the many diverse communities on the island.”
White, who chairs the steering committee, said she’s expanding the committee. Slightly fewer than 200 people are signed up, and anyone living in Galveston is invited to join. The goal is to reach 15 percent of the population, about 7,000 people, and to have a committee that represents the Galveston census demographically, drawing from all socio-economic levels, races, lifestyles, religions and areas of interest.
To come up with strategic plans for implementing the ideas that come from the outreach process, Vision Galveston has hired four consulting firms that have worked with other cities in urban design, transport, economic development and other aspects of planning a future.
“We’ll be addressing every aspect of the city — resiliency, the economy, housing, jobs, education, parks, land use, transportation, the arts and more,” Jacoby said. “We’re working with the city, the county, the school district and other government agencies so that the outcome of the plan is included in all their future efforts.”
Wednesday’s meeting will be interactive with stations set up to walk through. It’s inclusive, will be kid-friendly and will have ambassadors or members of the steering committee on hand to help with the process. Jacoby said participants might be involved in drawing, answering a survey, mapping and other activities, and can expect to be finished in 30 to 45 minutes.
White, executive director of United Way of Galveston, said Vision Galveston’s Facebook page count indicated 428 people were either interested or coming and she hopes everyone interested in the future of the city will give it a try.
“If you’re interested in the future of Galveston, if you’re starting a family, if you have ideas about what can happen in our city, please come,” she said.
“This is not going to be a common sit-down-and-we’ll-talk-to-you kind of meeting.”