A Look Inside The Provo Vision

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On Provo City’s new website,  under the “About Us” tab, is a page called “Current Issues,” and one of those issues is “Vision 2030.” From the introduction: “Vision 2030 is Provo’s process for defining a 20 year vision for the Provo community… a broad look at the future of Provo. ” It warrants public scrutiny.

Started back in 2010, when Mayor John Curtis took office, it began with a steering committee, appointed by Curtis, and was “composed of some of Provo’s best and brightest residents.” The people Curtis chose included himself, Council members Rick Healey and Sherrie Hall-Everett, school district leader and ex-Council member, Greg Hudnall, State Legislator Becky Lockhart, and Provo City’s CEO, Wayne Parker. Also on the steering committee was then-Councilman Steve Turley, (before he was forced to resign for ethics violations and charged with 10 felonies.)

The steering committee’s main job was to appoint 13 subcommittees,  who were tasked with “study(ing) key issues and recommend(ing) vision statements defining how Provo should tackle the issues over the coming years.” The people chosen for the subcommittees were a veritable “Who’s Who” of Provo City political insiders. Many subcommittees had a city employee appointed to represent the administration. No one was appointed to a subcommittee whom Curtis did not approve. Critics of Curtis, or those whom he deemed too difficult to work with, were not included.

Ironically, objective 14.3.2 of Vision 2030 advises that Provo should “Increase the diversity of residents and stakeholders serving on government boards and commissions … to achieve broader representation and more balance.” Unfortunately, the subcommittee that made that recommendation was fairly homogenous.

The resulting “Master Visioning Document“, contains statements of what our community’s “core values” will be, and more detailed goals and objectives in areas like transportation, education, natural resources, leisure, prosperity, and growth. It is a highly ambitious statement. Idealistic. Lofty. One might say, a Utopian Provo.

The document is supposed to determine what happens in Provo during the next two decades. However, the objectives represent the wishful thinking of a very select few. The statements of intent come from a fairly small portion of the population — selected by John Curtis.

Eventually, the Municipal Council, the statutory policy-makers elected by the people, got to vote on the Vision 2030 Statement, but few members of the public actually read it. Some of the proposals contained in it are controversial, to say the least, (ie. Goal 3.4– relocate the East Bay Golf Course to … city-owned property at the mouth of Provo Canyon) and yet, little public discussion occurred about those proposals. The document proposes implementation measures which future Councils are expected to follow.

Every resident of Provo should familiarize himself with the document. Every Council member needs to double check with his constituents to make sure that the Vision is what the people really want to happen in Provo. And the Council, as a whole, must assert their role as the actual policy-makers for the city, and not abdicate their duty to the Mayor, or his hand-picked allies.

John Curtis may be a really good guy, but the precedent set by the Vision 2030 process — that the Mayor and his friends hold the power to envision the city’s future — is just plain dangerous. We have checks and balances for a reason. Provo’s form of government, with two separate and equal branches, designates that policy is the perogative of the legislative branch. The Council needs to step up.

Photo Courtesy of Brigham Young University

Melanie McCoard
I have been following the Provo political scene closely for nearly two decades. I've been a developer, a reporter, a neighborhood chair, a candidate, a lobbyist, and a political "gadfly." I readily express my opinion about almost every issue that comes up. Some people value my " institutional memory;" others say I am a "public nuisance." I care about the community, and I know that city government is where the "rubber meets the road,"

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5 Comments

  1. Christian_F - January 9, 2014, 10:43 am

    I think the CAO and the mayor ought to be the people spearheading vision documents. That’s what we elected them to do. The checks and balances you mention are still in place. The vision document isn’t binding and the council still has to fulfill its role.

    I also think you are understating the number of people that were involved in this project to make a point. The document lists 13 subcommittees that were involved.

  2. nyminute2 - January 9, 2014, 2:19 pm

    I wasn’t involved. I would have liked to be. You weren’t involved. Wouldn’t you have liked to be? I can name a dozen other people who SHOULD have been involved, because of their institutional knowledge and sincere commitment to Provo. They were not asked. John was discriminating about who he allowed to participate. That is not “spearheading.” That’s exclusion.

  3. Andrea - January 9, 2014, 6:12 pm

    Melanie, what qualifies you or makes you so much better than Mayor Curtis to choose who supposedly SHOULD have been involved? It is a little disingenuous to imply that the people on these committees don’t have a “sincere commitment” to Provo or at least one that isn’t as sincere as yours, right? Obviously the majority of Provo residents believe John Curtis is qualified to make those decisions…it’s why we elected him. If you think you are more qualified, run for office, but at an 80%+ approval rating Mayor Curtis must be doing something right.

  4. nyminute2 - January 9, 2014, 8:03 pm

    i don’t think I did imply that the members of the subcommittees weren’t committed. I certainly did not intend to imply that. Quite the opposite, I imagine they were very sincere in their commitment. What qualifies me? 19 years following the Council, as a nbhd chair, an area rep, a reporter, a developer, a candidate (3 times), a lobbyist, a campaign worker, a blogger about city issues, and an ardent Council watcher. But it isn’t MY opinion that others should have been included. As I said, the other people’s experience, knowledge, and desire qualified them to be members of the subcommittees. I am not alone in my opinion that the process was not inclusive enough; even subcommittee members expressed their surprise and dismay about who was not invited to participate. The new Council will revisit Vision 2030. I was attempting to give the public a “head’s up” that now was an opportunity to become familiar with, and give input about, the Vision 2030 document. As far as being “disingenuous?” A quote, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

  5. Christian_F - January 10, 2014, 4:04 pm

    My feelings are not at all hurt that I wasn’t involved. I have reviewed the plan and appreciate the hard work that went into it. In general, I agree with it and since it isn’t a binding document, I couldn’t point to anything I feel strongly about enough to disagree.

    I am glad that the Mayor was discriminating (I wouldn’t want him to discriminate based on gender, etc. but I’m glad he was discriminating). I don’t want him to pick people with an ax to grind. And yes — if there are 13 subcommittees, I don’t think he can do anything BUT spearhead!

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