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Encourages openness of Vision Marshalltown

In the Wednesday, March 4 Times-Republican, Vision Marshalltown was featured with the headline, “Promoting Growth.”

The four areas of growth mentioned were: downtown, education, housing, pride and reputation. All ambitious and worthy goals. Since its inception our town has been blessed with community leaders who have given unselfishly of their time, money and talent to grow our town and make it a great place to live. The Grimes Farm, an outstanding “Y,” the hospice home, beautiful flower baskets along Main Street are but a few examples of a long list of giving at all levels. Vision Marshalltown is also another organization of talented, smart people willing to provide leadership to help our town grow.

Is there a BUT? Yes — just one of caution from years of past experiences.

Here are my concerns:

• Growth — what kind of growth? Growth for growth’s sake is not wise. We do not need more low income jobs and housing. The statistic of 70 percent free and reduced lunch in our schools is an indication of a town in trouble. We need higher paying jobs and people willing to live here to counter-balance the poverty we are experiencing, to help our educational system be more diverse and to boost our pride and reputation. Right now we are losing that higher end earning group.

• Input — input is needed from the community at all levels which may mean efforts designed to seek out various opinions, even if negative. I have been asking for the past year what the specifics of Vision Marshalltown’s plans are with no answers. We do not want to repeat the mistake that was made a few years ago when there were rumors about a new community hospital but there was no transparency or allowance for community input until the decisions had already been made and the “community meeting” was a mere formality. It left a sense of mistrust and resentment towards the small group of leaders making the decisions.

• Accountability — our elected officials are held accountable because they are elected and can be voted out of office. To whom are the leaders of Vision Marshalltown accountable? They have made a report to the County Supervisors — so will the County Supervisors be held accountable for the decisions of Vision Marshalltown?

I applaude the goals of Vision Marshalltown. I want to be supportive. We need them. But I encourage openness and caution.

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