04/22/12 — City seeks comments on future

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City seeks comments on future

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 22, 2012 1:50 AM

Goldsboro officials are actively searching for voices and visions for the city's future as part of its new Greater Goldsboro Think Tank initiative.

The group, also known as G2T2, is being created in collaboration with East Carolina University, but Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson said the idea for the group developed out of a number of events over that past year indicating that the city needed to connect more intimately with its younger citizens.

When Mitchell Silver, Raleigh's city planner, pointed out to the Goldsboro City Council during its 2011 retreat that they were all men at least 50 years old, it came with a warning.

"Your stiffest challenge will be how your constituents will relate to you," Ms. Thompson recalled him saying.

He explained that if the council members were only listening to concerns of people their age, they were essentially only building a community that would last for another 15 to 20 years.

He added that the cities that will succeed in the future are the ones who are putting an emphasis on embracing their younger populations.

When UNC-Chapel Hill professor Ferrel Guillory spoke at a Wayne County Chamber of Commerce event later that year, Ms. Thompson said the points became even more poignant.

Guillory, who collaborated with North Carolina's Eastern Region for a research paper on the future of eastern North Carolina, shared with those gathered that the majority of young people in the region feel disconnected from civic life. He identified East Carolina University as a regional hub that was showing promise within the region and the idea came together for Ms. Thompson.

"I was intrigued and we started talking about formulating a think tank," she said.

She met with the university's vice chancellor of engagement and told him about her idea and it swiftly became reality as the college decided it would provide a facilitator, an observer and a final report to be shared with the public.

She said that was essential, since objectivity would ensure the report is as close a representation of the city's aims as possible.

"It will just be nice to have a group that doesn't have an agenda," Ms. Thompson said.

The group's first question will simply be "What would you like to see our community look like in the next 20 years?"

Within 10 months, Ms. Thompson said a report should be put together, although now she is working to recruit members. Following this cycle, a new question will be posed to advance the discussions.

Members should be Wayne County residents, although additional specifications will help to make sure the group membership represents a cross-section of the entire city.

Those interested can acquire applications from the city's website or get more information by calling DGDC at 735-4959. The application deadline is Monday.