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Steve Novotney Says, "Now Is the New Later"

It is a "vision statement" that was included in the city of Wheeling's state-mandated Comprehensive Plan completed and released in October 2014.

Right there on the first page of the section involving "Community Vision and Assessment," it reads, "Wheeling will be a forward-thinking, modern, and sustainable community with a diverse economy, support for local entrepreneurs, strong community partnerships, robust neighborhood and infrastructure investments, and an emphasis on embracing the area's unique heritage, culture, and recreational opportunities."

The big question, though, is how do we get to each and every one of those places so that statement can come true on all fronts someday not too far away? The committee members included several pages within the Comprehensive Plan explaining how it's all realistically possible in a 10-to-20-year span of time, but it is going to take a lot of "on-the-same-page" thinking by those in leadership positions, yes, and also a buy-in on the part of the city's citizens.

That can be difficult, too, and that proved true during the recent public meeting concerning the proposed non-discrimination ordinance. While the vast majority of those who spoke expressed appreciation for the equality legislation, those opposed were present, vocal, and steadfast with their beliefs that such a law is unnecessary, against God's will, and contrary to a properly functioning government.

But not all issues will involve such social matters as the city of Wheeling's attempts to navigate its way to another era of prosperity and examples of progress in most of the areas covered by the plan's vision statement. "Show of Hands," now in its third season, continues to grow and offers local entrepreneurs the chance to gain crowdfunding while spreading the word of their new ventures; improving the city's parks and playgrounds moved forward this week with the announcement that Jesse Mestrovic has been hired to re-invent the municipality's many public areas to improve neighborhoods and the recreational opportunities within; the volunteer members of the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission have provided public art projects for the first time; and Wheeling Heritage's Jake Dougherty remains on a mission to educate as many city citizens as possible about the long and storied history of what the city of Wheeling has represented to the overall development of the United States.

But wait; there's more.

If PTT Global, a petrochemical corporation from Thailand does move forward with the construction of a $5.5 billion "cracker" plant across the Ohio River in Belmont County, Wheeling's economy will diversify with the rest of the Upper Ohio Valley, and that is why Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott created an ad-hoc committee on industrial development. The committee is chaired by local financial wizard Peter Holloway, and its members are investigating what may be possible in a downtown district that has long been the home of business and not industry.

Elliott created a few more groups to concentrate on volunteerism, retention of citizens, and workforce housing, an issue that consistently costs Wheeling new residents because of a lack of single-dwelling housing sought after by younger professionals gaining positions with companies like Orrick, Williams Lea, and Tag.

So, many of the necessary conversations are taking place right now, and city leaders consistently insist more and more residents should get involved so an acceleration of movement toward those lofty goals may take place. Even if the mayor did not ask you to be a member of one of his committees, the meetings are open to the public. Disagreements, of course, will persist to occur, but that's an important part of the process, too, and that's because no single person knows all of the right answers.

The Comprehensive Plan should be used as a guide, quite frankly, because hours of quality work went into its development by folks like former city councilmen Don Atkinson and Barry Crow, the city's Thomas Connelly, and by the chairman of the Wheeling Planning Commission, our own Howard Monroe. It's been good to witness its use with the committee creations, the initiation of the parks improvement program, and the attention to more than just the "now."

"Now" is important, for sure, but "Now" does little to keep our kids here "Later."

Categories: Commentary