Op-Ed Series: Mayor Frank Janakovic

Vision 2025: A Strong Sense of Community

By Frank Janakovic


The Vision 2025 framework focuses on three key areas: a strong sense of community, life-sustaining landscapes, and a vibrant and open local economy. Today’s piece focuses on community. Landscapes will be discussed Jan. 10 and economy on Jan. 17.


According to the Vision 2025 framework created by Carnegie Mellon’s Remaking Cities Institute, a sense of community is at the core of all efforts to strengthen and build neighborhoods and cities. A strong community creates social resilience – the idea that people who share a common sense of purpose will work together to learn, adapt, and ultimately flourish.


I was born, raised and reside in Johnstown. I have experienced Johnstown in its peaks and its valleys, at its highs and its lows. Thus, I recognize that Johnstown is a resilient city.  The Remaking Cities Institute recognized this as an asset of our city, citing a renewed optimism and cooperative spirit among Johnstown business, local government, civic groups, and citizens. But they also made a point to recognize our regions historical lack of both teamwork and unity as a liability.


Throughout the years I’ve witnessed a strong sense of community in Johnstown, but I’ve also seen how it’s been disjointed. There are many individuals and groups doing great things in our city, but often they are not communicating. In my years on city council and as mayor, I’ve been encouraging people to work together on projects, whether it is businesses, civic groups or citizens.


That’s what the community focus of Vision 2025 is all about. Also, we have to make sure that everyone is invited to the table and feels they have a voice in establishing what we want to work toward for our city and neighborhoods. Then, once ideas and projects have been established, it’s very important that people work together to make it happen through a coordinated effort. At its simplest, Vision 2025 is about communication and collaboration. We’re all working together to revitalize and rejuvenate our city.


Imagine the impact groups can have if they all work together cooperatively. Great things can happen! Look at the Christmas Tree @ Central Park. It’s already had a positive impact on the city. As mayor, I’ve heard time and time again the perception of downtown being unsafe after dark. But all of a sudden, this tree has changed the view of hundreds, if not thousands, of people coming downtown after hours to see the tree, tour downtown and visit local restaurants. It’s a great example of how one positive project can lead to many amazing outcomes.


You can help create a strong and resilient community in small ways: Volunteer at your church; help the elderly in your neighborhood; participate in or coach a community sports league; mentor a child; spend time working in one of the many community gardens throughout the city; attend festivals and events to help make them successful. A strong community can be created through many small actions.


A primary point I’d like to get across, it’s that Vision 2025 isn’t about what the mayor, city council or the business community want!  It’s about what the people who care about this city want to see changed in their community. There was an original committee of business leaders who worked to get this ball rolling, but they/we aren’t going into this process with pre-conceived ideas of what we want to see as Vision 2025. We are relying on the people of our city and neighborhoods to choose the projects, and then volunteer for “capture teams” to work on accomplishing their goals.


That is why I  strongly encourage all citizens to become involved in the Vision 2025 process. This is your opportunity to become engaged and empowered to provide positive change in the city you live. Who’s to say that groups in various sections of the city can’t go out and do the same thing that Discover Downtown did and make a difference in their own neighborhoods? There’s been a lot of great work done already, but there are many more projects that can be developed. Maybe the next great idea for Johnstown is your idea – but you have to be a part of the process to make your voice heard.


The people who live and work here in Johnstown can change this city for the better. Our community has the opportunity to create our future, to make this city what we want it to be. TOGETHER, Johnstown can do it. And TOGETHER is the only way we can make this happen!


Make plans to attend the Community Circle Work Session on January 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the JWFI Training Room, 84 Iron Street. And learn more about Vision 2025by visiting http://www.johnstown25.com and liking Johnstown’s Vision 2025 on Fa

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