We’ve created a prototype for change
By Jim Hanley
When people come together to talk and address an issue, good things can happen. That thought struck me when I stepped into my new role as MBTA president and presided over a Fix It Now! community forum on transportation in June.
That good things can come from sharing opinions and looking for solutions is the concept behind the MBTA’s Fix It Now! campaign which in recent months has taken its message – that Maine’s transportation infrastructure needs fixing – on the road.
MBTA used the occasion of its annual Eastport meeting to hold the Fix It Now! forum. We invited local and regional leaders to talk about what’s not getting fixed in their area at a panel discussion preceding the organization’s evening meeting. It was a chance to hear people like Washington County Council of Government Executive Director Judy East, Easport Port Authority Director Chris Gardiner, H.O. Bouchard company executive Steve Whitcomb and former Milbridge Selectman Gary Willey talk about what matters most to the people who rely on the local transportation system every day.
Front and center at the Eastport meeting was MBTA Senior Policy Consultant John Melrose. John has been instrumental in helping to put together the data behind the Fix It Now! campaign, and he is an excellent spokesperson for the cause. He truly understands the full depth and breadth of the problems that Maine faces as we work to find ways to fund our transportation system.
A month earlier MBTA was asked to participate in a meeting along similar lines, specifically in regards to the Route 15 corridor between Blue Hill and Stonington. Maine Senator Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) had requested the meeting with MaineDOT. Several MBTA members were present, along with John Melrose and Kate Dufour from the Maine Municipal Association. About 80 residents and leaders from 11 Hancock County communities gathered in Blue Hill on May 10.
This is the beginning of what we are planning will be a concerted effort at outreach. Because to make change – to convince our elected officials that we need to spend more on our roads, bridges, rail, ports and aviation infrastructure – the MBTA needs to know about local concerns, specific infrastructure that people want to see fixed or improved. This is how we build a vocal constituency: people who will get fired up and call their legislator to demand something be done.
MBTA has always believed in getting out and gathering the facts and building support for transportation funding. This, in fact, is how we began – pulling together different audiences with a stake in improving transportation in their area, in order to improve the state’s economy and make it competitive.
It’s with this sort of local involvement that MBTA is able to remain strong and focused on its central mission – firing up people, getting community leaders to speak up and demand that Maine do what it must and spend what it should to fix its busted roads and modernize its ports and airports. This is important, because without good transportation, the state cannot prosper.
In this light, with this issue of Maine Trails we feature the most recent news on MBTA’s strategic planning process that recently wrapped up. The MBTA board of directors contracted with Bob Harris, a consultant who has worked with organizations around the world to develop strategic plans, define board responsibilities and train staff to meet the challenges facing non-profits.
Suffice it to say, much has changed since 2006, the last time the board underwent this process. And working with Bob, we were able to get a clear picture of what we need to do to continue to grow and be a powerful force for change during these challenging times.
As part of the strategic planning process, even the MBTA’s mission statement has been scrutinized. Our new mission is this: “To be the leading voice for safe, efficient, reliable multi-modal transportation infrastructure to enhance the economy and quality of life.”
As evidenced in Blue Hill and Eastport, change is definitely in the air and we are determined to be a strong voice advocating for that change. The Blue Hill and Eastport meetings, we hope, will serve as a prototype for change.
We were successful in bringing together a diverse group and hearing their concerns and hopes for the future. Those relationships that we are building and the knowledge we are gaining, will be power behind the MBTA’s voice for change.
So I look forward to the coming year and hope you will join me and the MBTA board as we continue to take MBTA’s message of change and renewal on the road as we all work to “Fix It Now!”