Smart to plan future

Good for Sedgwick County Commissioners Tim Norton, Dave Unruh and Jim Skelton for recognizing that the county’s participation in a federally funded regional planning effort is no goose step toward one world government.

The opponents, including a whopping 21 speakers at Wednesday’s meeting, deserve credit for the intensity of their view and their willingness to show up and argue it to the commission – and especially to Skelton, who was seen as the swing vote.

In this blessedly free country, they are certainly entitled to their fear and loathing of the United Nations, the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency that manages the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program.

But it was regrettable to hear so many at the meeting catapult to conclusions about the nature of the grant and sully the meanings of perfectly good words such as “sustainability” and “planning.” Merriam-Webster defines “sustainable” as “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” How did that become a bad thing?

It also was troubling to hear a lawmaker suggest the Legislature would formally oppose sustainable development in Kansas, given that such planning is a local issue and legislators reportedly had expressed no such concerns about the HUD grant to the Regional Economic Area Partnership.

All the commission did Wednesday was further a long and forward-looking process that stands to strengthen partnerships with other communities and counties throughout the region.

Because of its action, the consortium of 23 area governments can start thinking ahead on issues such as transportation, water and community health.

Saying “no” to the grant and process, which will involve $120,707 in county in-kind services, would not have saved the federal budget a penny. It only would have meant that $1.5 million in federal dollars were spent elsewhere.

It also would have betrayed the other stakeholders in the planning effort, which is being led by REAP and includes Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, the city of Wichita, United Way of the Plains, Visioneering Wichita and Butler, Harvey, Reno and Sumner counties and their county seats. As a group, the consortium is contributing $823,405 to the planning. The Kansas Health Foundation has kicked in $50,000.

Those are the impressive players at the table in this effort. Over the next few years, the public will have opportunities to join them.

The implementation of any resulting plan would be subject to the will of the county commissioners and other officials in the consortium’s member counties and communities.

Along the way, there will be many more chances for opponents of the grant, sustainable development, HUD, the EPA, the U.N. and the rest to be heard.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman