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Talent survey seeks to raise involvement in ’visioning’

University of Oregon students in a Green Cities summer course will conduct a survey of Hispanic residents in Talent this month to help understand and guide their involvement in upcoming community visioning processes aimed at creating resiliency and planning for the future.

The city of Talent, the university, the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association and several local organizations serving the Hispanic community are collaborating on the effort, which will also look at fire emergency planning and securing a state transportation growth management grant to help guide future development.

“We are excited to be able to engage with the community, letting the students get to know Southern Oregon better, get to know the Latino community and their needs, and be able to share that with the city,” said Megan Banks, a program director with the university’s Sustainable Cities Institute.

In April, Talent City Council approved an agreement with the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association to begin planning future visioning and resiliency efforts.

The group is offering its services without charge through its Community Assistance Planning program designed to aid towns around Oregon that are lacking resources and expertise to tackle issues such as economic development, social equity and affordability, revitalization and consensus building.

Students will follow a four-page questionnaire to conduct interviews over the phone or via Zoom in what will be the first phase of an effort designed to lead to the visioning rounds, said Banks. The students are juniors, many of whom may be considering careers in planning, public policy and sustainability.

“It’s one thing to just take a class with hypotheticals. This is also an opportunity to crucially listen and hopefully contribute,” said Banks. “We can give the students an opportunity to engage with Oregon residents and be helpful wherever they can.”

Students will help organize, conduct and analyze interviews designed to broaden understanding of resident engagement and guide community outreach for Talent, said Hector Flores, city recorder and community engagement officer. Flores, who is bilingual, reviewed the questions to ensure they were culturally appropriate and would not seek information on the fire.

“They hope to inform the city on ways to successfully engage the Latinx community in planning and outreach efforts,” said Flores. “We want to include their voices in the recovery, the planning process.”

Questions will be done in either English or Spanish. Information on age, gender, ethnicity and language spoken in a household will be collected. Data will also be sought on contact with agencies, attendance at public or city events, sources of event information, means the city of Talent could employ to increase involvement, and location of city gatherings.

Open-ended questions will ask what is the most important thing for city officials to know about a respondent’s community, what type of information the city should provide, whether the community is presently represented in planning efforts, and what should be the top goals and priorities.

The course is offered through the UO School of Planning, Public Policy and Management. Instructor Ric Stephens is a long-time Oregon planner, Banks said. About 35 students are taking the class.

Interview scheduling should start the week of July 12, with interviews going through the end of July. Class members will then start synthesizing answers and coming up with findings. Those results will be shared with the city and passed on to the volunteers from the planning association, who will use them in their efforts. They will also help inform an application for the traffic growth management grant, said Banks.

“Our goal is to provide informative information,” said Banks. “Visioning and concentrated outreach will happen as part of the grant. We are doing this work now so we can set them up for success.”

The OCAPA planners are working with the city to review past planning actions and documents with a view toward preparing for future wildfires. But their findings will also be helpful in planning for an Oregon traffic growth management grant application to help with a visioning process, said Banks.

Various Rogue Valley community groups are assisting the city and the students in locating interviewees, said Flores, including Unete and Unite Oregon.

Jackson County Educational Service District is also helping identify interviewees, Banks said. Former residents of Talent may be living elsewhere in the valley following the Almeda fire but will also be sought for interviews.

“We are talking about hundreds who are displaced,” said Flores. “It’s better to reach out to local organizations, Unete and others.”

Organizers would like to get 50 to 100 completed surveys.

“If we got 100, we would be ecstatic,” said Banks.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.