“We’re going to live inside this ring”

Today’s subject comes from a News-Gazette article in today’s paper (“Since you asked: July 18, 2014“). In my limited experience, municipalities don’t appear to think about the end game too much – it’s all about growth. For example, several years ago I asked my village representatives what the goal population was, and the only answer was as big as possible. That is a horrible answer! The several local Comprehensive Plans and Strategic Plans I have looked at for Savoy, Champaign and Urbana are lacking in any kind of holistic picture of what population size we are aiming for.


There is another kind of growth that occurs without bounds. It is called cancer. And I think that pretty much describes our collective approach to planning these days – grab as much as possible, and damn the consequences.


In Thursday’s paper, the NG printed a copy of a column by Esther Cepeda, a resident in the Chicago area who has written quite a lot about Chicago and issues concerning education, politics, Latinos, ethics and poverty. The Thursday article is a very painful reminder of how a large city like Chicago has become extremely skewed, twisted and unmanageable. Bruce Knight (City of Champaign Planning & Development Director) tells me that Champaign is not Chicago, and while I totally agree, I also acknowledge that Chicago did not become what it is overnight, but rather over a century. It is the mentality of the people in charge that make the most difference. We have our own sordid stories of murder, rape and other heinous crimes; and if we were to map them all out (which I believe the City of Champaign does, but I cannot find it at the moment), those crimes tend to concentrate around specific geographic locations. I fear we are too “reactive” instead of being proactive. Please note that I am not laying the blame for our situation at the feet of any one person – rather, it is many long years of corrosion of the human condition. Just like cancer.


On several occasions on this blog, I have written about other issues like “social justice” (a term that is hard to nail down), poverty, racial and cultural inequities. I continue to assert that all these issues are interwoven with education, specifically free, public education that strives to equip all our learners with the tools necessary to succeed at life. It is my belief that a strong public support of this kind of education is not only a moral obligation (Dr. Edna Olive), but also one of the best forms of prevention for our societal health. Just like brushing teeth, eating healthy, exercising, and regular checkups. Or for another analogy, changing the oil in your vehicle and bringing it in for scheduled maintenance. And for those of you that like to think in business terms, the Return On Investment (ROI) is huge – for the little bit you put in day by day, you reap many more times in rewards and benefits.


Most likely, some day in the future we will have schools (plural, yes) north of I-74. Maybe we will have schools west of I-57. Maybe Tolono will put a school between Unity and Savoy. To me, all these are lesser of an issue than having a plan in place that will prevent the atrocities we see today. Yes, we are not the Chicago of 2014; let us not walk in the steps of Chicago of yesteryear. Pointing fingers at drug users, gang bangers and promiscuous women never solved the problem (“War on Drugs”? “War on Poverty”? “War on Terrorism”?). We need to address the root issues of these malignant behaviors in the first place, and I firmly believe that can successfully happen in the schools.


We do not know if we will have a massive November school referendum or not; we will probably see a question on the ballot about bumping property taxes significantly to build a new high school and to renovate one or more other schools. This community is widely divided on the issue of supporting such a referendum, because we are not on the same page at all. We have no overall plan for what is best for all of us. Instead we have personal agendas, rife with opinions, perspectives, history and experience. And too often our personal agendas are not compatible with others.


Board members say we have been talking for years (even decades). Yet with all this talk, we have no plan that maps out what our future will look like. Some say they are done talking and ready to walk. Draw me a ring.

7 Responses to ““We’re going to live inside this ring””

  1. pattsi Says:

    Think Portland, Oregon urban growth boundary. Here is a wonderful resource for the citizen planner about this type of control and planning for growth and preserving agricultural land that is without any question the economic driver of this county.

  2. pattsi Says:

    Oops hit enter too soon. Here is the resource http://plannersweb.com/2013/08/urban-growth-boundaries/

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    That is already mentioned in the article. 🙂

    “Our general position is to limit the use of farmland for housing and development, and so there is resistance to the expansion of the footprint of the city,” Warfel said. “We look longingly at Portland, Oregon, and what they’ve done there, drawing a circle around the city and saying: We’re going to live inside this ring.

  4. pattsi Says:

    I do not understand Lynn Warfel’s comment. If it is all right to use farmland for housing and development what else is there? Farm land, which is 96% of the land i C

    • pattsi Says:

      I hit enter again too soon–now too continue–famland is 96% of the land in CC. And when one states farmland, this is the best of the best of the best. Factually in CC this land has been covered 4-5 fold in relation to the increase in population. There is a mismatch between these facts and the statement and what is happening related to long range planning.

    • kshannon617 Says:

      I read that comment in a different way. I *think* she’s NOT saying we should only use farmland for housing and development, but is instead saying that we should be careful to limit HOW MUCH farmland we use for housing and development. That would be more consistent with the rest of her statement.

  5. small is beautiful, part 1 | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] am reminded of Lin Warfel’s sentiments July 18, 2014 (NG article), which I wrote about the same […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: