Sunday, August 23, 2009

A day for a large pie in the sky: 400 attend Great Expectations planning conference in Shreveport Convention Center

How do you enfranchise a few hundred of a somnolent city's citizen soldiers? The Great Expectations vision conference held by Shreveport's Metropolitan Planning Commission came as close to doing that as I can imagine.

About 400 people converged on the Convention Center and spent their Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm, discussing their city - both its past and future.

Working with some 20 people in the course of the day I found a lot of fresh meat. A large number of my confrerees were not natives. Many of those who were natives were those who'd returned after a significant sojourn elsewhere.

The color breakdown was healthy. In my estimation people of color comprised some 45% to 50% of the audience. After brief intros and establishing commonalities and sometimes quickly exchanging phones and email addresses, we began, in bits and drabs, to address racism. Most of the discussions were wistful and humble. Such as, "This town is no longer like the one my daddy was raised in." And some were lighthearted, such as several of my table-mates' bantering over preference for the category Mixed Race instead of African-American. Still, it became apparent that in communications between ethnic groups this city needs much more work.

There were a few reps from the wealthy and influential class, a few peeps from the underprivileged class and very few from the twentysomethings. Mainly the people I talked with were college-educated but not of the professional class. Still, everyone agreed to talk about pie in the sky for a few hours.

Times reporter Adam Causey wrote a summary of the conference and actually twittered the event through the day. If you care about city government I recommend you become a follower of his reports at

And if you liked the ideas launched at Great Expectations I encourage you to consider tuning in to It is an umbrella organization with groups working issues such downtown development, community gardens, greenways and bicycle paths.

Meetings are held at Centenary Square (park in back, off Woodlawn) on Mons from 6 pm to 7:15 pm. All are welcome.

See more here.

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