Advocacy 101: How advocates in Lee's Summit passed Complete Streets

This article is part of MoBikeFed's Advocacy 101 series, with tips and best practices for bicycle and pedestrian advocacy.

Advocates in Lee's Summit ran a model campaign to build support for Complete Streets in their community.  The campaign recently resulted in the adoption of a Complete Streets resolution by the City Council and the establishment of a citizen's board to oversee the city's new livable streets policies.

The Livable Streets Lee's Summit campaign is a great example of how local advocates and citizens can work together to make a real difference.

The groups strategy, outlined below, is real-life example of how Power Mapping works.  Power Mapping is the most basic concept in advocacy.  It focuses on the importance of building networks of relationships throughout the community in support of your advocacy campaign--that that is exactly what Lee's Summit citizens and advocates have done.

Livable Streets in Lee's Summit
The story of "Livable Streets" in Lee's Summit
began with a discussion of public health and safety at the city's Health Education Advisory Board in early 2008. While there was clearly a need to promote "active living", including biking and walking, the Board also recognized the need to improve safety and access for people engaged in these activities along and across Lee's Summit's roads.

Dr. Ed Kraemer

The Board Co-Chair, Dr. Ed Kraemer, attended a Bicycle Friendly Community workshop along with the city manager and staff from Public Works and Parks & Rec departments. This led to a desire to pursue an even more comprehensive transportation policy known as "Complete Streets".

Dr. Kraemer and the other Co-chair, Dr. Steve Salanski, then approached the Mayor, who liked the Complete Streets concept.  The Mayor recommended that Complete Streets be  introduced through the city's citizens' strategic planning process, which was then underway.  The strategic planning process, known as Lee's Summit 360,  involved a number of meetings over a period of months.  In the meetings, citizens explained and then prioritized their ideas for the city. Dr. Kraemer explained the Complete Streets concept and the reasons why it was important to the City.

The ultimate result of the LS360 process was a strategic plan, officially adopted by the City Council, that included a statement of support for Complete Streets and the outline of a plan to implement Complete Streets in the city.

Livable Streets Planning Committee
With the strategic plan adopted, LS360 created a Livable Streets Planning Committee consisting of a wide-ranging group of citizens representing various walks of life and all districts of the community.  The Committee created a comprehensive plan for promoting safe bicycling and walking in the city, including education and encouragement programs, getting ready for and applying for national bicycle and pedestrian friendly community recognition programs, and updating the city's policies related to bicycling and walking facilities.

The Committee launched a wide-ranging education program designed to explain the concept of Complete Streets/Livable Streets and develop support for the concept in groups across the city.  They created a web site, www.livablestreetsls.com, a Facebook page and a brochure. They gave numerous presentations to community groups, business groups, the chamber of commerce, civic clubs, the park board, the planning commission, city staff, and city council committees.

In discussions with city staff and city council members, committee members decided it would be best to first pursue a Livable Streets Resolution/Policy, setting out the broad principles and reasons for the city to move in this new direction.  With the broad direction and overall philosophy set in the Resolution/Policy, the city council and staff would then follow up with more specific changes in policy and city ordinance as needed.

Adoption of the Livable Streets resolution and next steps
The Committee spent the better part of a year drafting the resolution, discussing it with individual council members, presenting and discussing it at city council committee meetings, making changes and revisions to address the issues council members raised, and taking it through the City Council process.  The Resolution was adopted in November 2010 as the Livable Streets Policy.

Livable Streets Lee's Summit
Livable Streets Lee's Summit

As a result of this resolution, Lee's Summit is now moving to appoint a Livable Streets Advisory Board, which will be a standing city board with citizen representatives from each City Council district.  The Board will advise the city council and staff on a comprehensive program to encourage safe bicycling and walking throughout the city, including a review of changes in policies and ordinances needed to comprehensively implement Livable Streets in the city.

Advocacy is about building relationships
The Health Education Advisory Board's great idea to bring Livable Streets to Lee's Summit has been over three years in the making--and still is not finished.  Such a thorough and exhaustive process may not be necessary in every city.  But advocacy is about building relationships, and every step of the process involved building strong, personal relationships with people around Lee's Summit and helping citizens, staff, and elected leaders understand and support Livable Streets.

And the result of this comprehensive approach was the building of a very strong, resilient, and deep base of political, citizen, and staff support for Livable Streets in Lee's Summit. Livable Streets isn't just a policy statement sitting on a shelf--it's got strong support throughout the community, and city staff and city council members know this.  When it comes time to make tough decisions about funding, priorities, or projects, this strong web of personal relationships built in support of Livable Streets is what will make real changes happen.

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