A month ago, or so, I applied to take part in a program called Leadership Seacoast. The program looks to broaden the leadership qualities found in the seacoast region of New Hampshire, and is geared to awakening regional awareness and strengthen the skills and development of its participants, especially in the areas of leadership and advocacy (I am sure someone on the LS team can explain it better than I just did).
So, January 4th was the first session. It was a retreat at the Brown Center operated by UNH. This retreat was a good way for us all to meet and learn about ourselves and the other participants. There are 35 people in my class, and we range from all ages (well no one younger than maybe 20, and no one older than say 60). There is a very good mixture of backgrounds and professions, though interestingly professions and last names, aren't dwelt upon for the most part.
The session was interesting and worthwhile. From that point, the remaining 7 sessions will have a specific focus. Sessions occur every 3 weeks or so. The first session was last Wednesday, January 25, and focused on Criminal Justice. The day was held at the Strafford County Complex. This includes the Court House, as well as the correctional facility. The focus of the day, or at least what I took out of the day, was the role that compassion and respect take in working with those deemed to be criminals. On the one hand you have people who have been swept into the arena of drugs and alcohol. There are some very positive and cost effective programs that the County operates to assist those charged with and found quilty of having a drug habit. These programs, I think benefit three stakeholders, the criminal, the victim (including family and friends of the criminal), and the county as a whole.
It was fascinating listening to people talk about the work they do and the measures and methods they use to lower costs (it is about 8 dollars a day to treat someone, vs 87 dollars a day to incarcerate them), and achieve success.
One thing that I had not realized, until sitting with the folks, which I was embarrassed by, is the interaction with housing and transportation that these programs have. I wrote last week about the FastTrans program, and mentioned, I believe, that the County contributes to its funding stream. Well, the highest user of those going to the County facility, are those taking part in the Drug Court program. This program where violator's live at home and have a job, requires frequent drug testing and routine check ins with the Court. Many of these folks have such a restricted income stream that they cannot afford a car, and rely on FastTrans.
This was one of the many "a-ha" moments I had seeing how Planning and our projects are related to a larger wold. Or rather how our projects might go unrecognized but well utilized. I find that Planning tends to have one of those intangible existences. The average citizen can make the connection to police or fire, because they do things you can see and feel (arrests, and rescues). Public works paves roads and plows them, and people take books out of the library, but what thing does planning do? We improve quality of life. That is such an intangible item to list. Part of the beauty of planning is that our activities reach out beyond our office, and beyond our daily conversations and affect many people, most of whom don't realize it. Without good, thoughtful, planning, you cannot have many of the things we take for granted every day.
Still, in the end it is rewarding to see people using our projects and plans to make their lives better, and really what more can you ask than that?