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This blog entry has been written in response to a Valley Journal piece written by Darlis Smith, Polson Heart and Soul Co-cordinator for the Orton Family Foundation.  You can read her story by following the link here.  The words below were also published in the Valley Journal on October 17, 2012.

The Valley View piece written by Darlis Smith about the Orton Family Foundation’s project (10-10-12) appears deliberately vague. She stated that it is difficult to explain the project to the public and there are no preconceived notions about the results. It really shouldn’t be difficult, especially for an insider. The Greater Polson Community Foundation/City Manager group was very clear when they applied for the grant from Orton. Here are a few statements:

■ The city is about to embark in rewriting city codes and infrastructure planning.

■The city manager has announced that he is beginning an effort to rewrite all of the city’s codes.

■Move city government as it prepares in 2012 to rewrite the city’s development codes to plan for virtually everything.

Evidently this is what Orton was looking for because Polson was selected. Darlis said this is not your typical grant. That’s correct. The partnership must use government to implement their plan and provide “assistance with leveraging local/state/other funds as appropriate and a commitment to raising additional funds as needed to successfully complete the project” (Agreement, p. 5).

What is the Orton Family Foundation really about? A look at their board of directors reveals their ideologies. Please take the time to do that. Limited space does not permit me to do so, but I will say they range from anti-billboard activists to advocates for using government regulations to manipulate complete migration into city centers. Orton has described their purpose in legal documents as this: The foundation’s highest purpose is to influence the field of land use planning.

What about the Heart and Soul process? A few trained individuals will declare consensus within a group after leading participants down a specific path. A smaller group, with Orton’s assistance, “interprets” the results as they see it. The partnership agreement states “recommendations will specifically address updates to city codes, guidelines for making policy and regulation changes” (Appendix B, p.4).

Ultimately, the plan will be presented to the Polson City Commissioners who will be told this is the will of the people. The City Manager has told me that those who do not get involved with Heart and Soul will most likely not be heard. This “collaborative decision process” has no place in the development of public policies. Elected officials are removed from the process. The opportunity to object is eliminated and thus results in a loss of freedom.

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