The Concensus Building Institute along with the National Charette Institute were hired by the LRRC on behalf of R’ Aaron Kotler and other community leaders to assess what Lakewood’s challenges are and to ‘solve the most challenging problems through engagement, conflict resolution and strategic collaboration’. The strategic analysis was funded by Frum businessman to the tune of $35K.
Assess and identify
First they assessed and identified the challenges Lakewood faces in general. They did this by interviewing community leaders, politicians and ‘key stakeholders’. They interviewed a total of 90 people but noted in the report that they were ‘not able to connect with everyone suggested, additionally missing a chance to speak with many elected officials from neighboring towns’.
The findings revealed ‘good quality of life’ along with ‘high levels of community vitality’. They also noted Lakewood has ‘low crime and violence’ and ‘strong economic profile and plentiful job opportunities’.
The not-so-good revelations included the fact that most interviewees ‘acknowledged the presence of intolerable attitudes and biased behavior toward Orthodox Jews’. Some even made this hatred a ‘central characteristic of life in the region’ with most people agreeing the media in general and the APP in specific ’over-emphasized negative stories about Lakewood and members of the Orthodox community’.
Almost all interviewees acknowledged the traffic issue in Lakewood with many noting concerns with the planning, zoning, and infrastructure. A number of people mentioned unfair land use laws used in neighboring townships as a means to keep Orthodox Jews out.
Response moving forward
Most respondents felt face-to-face interactions would be best moving forward to ‘breakdown the fear’. Additionally, many felt broadcasting ‘success stories’ and establishing a ‘neighbors bill of rights’ perhaps even sponsored by the ‘APP’ would be a wise move.
GreaterLakewood finds it quite interesting that although the report says almost all interviewees mentioned traffic, nothing was mentioned in the response portion from interviewees to stop building or to limit zoning and building…
Based on their findings, the Concensus Building Institute along with the National Charette Institute listed a few pages of ideas along my with a number of things to be further looked into and addressed. Among the ideas are expanding a ‘structure for collaborative governance’ as well expanding ‘trust building relationships’. They also list making a ‘growth management plan’ along with developing a ‘shared community coexistence plan’.
View the full report below.
Lakewood assessment report by on Scribd