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Editorial board members held our April coffee chat last week at CG Coffee in north Richland. Thanks to all who came out to see us and share their ideas.

Every time we hold an event for Herald readers, I’m bowled over by the time, thought and energy people here give to the issues affecting our community.

Mid-Columbians are a diverse bunch, with sometimes conflicting ideas about what’s best for the region and the nation.

But there is also tremendous unity around the notion that this is a great place to live and that we can make it even better.

About 20 people stopped by last week, some stayed for the full two hours and others for a few minutes. Talk varied from critques of the Herald’s opinion pages to wish lists for the Mid-Columbia.

Much of the discussion revolved around the needs for a shared vision and plan for improving the quality of life — more destination venues, performing arts center, water park, developing the rivershore to include a board walk with shops, restaurants, hotels. Several readers with a passion for preserving open spaces and raising environmental awareness stopped by. Among their ideas — a light rail line connecting Columbia Center area to Hanford.

Education is on people’s minds. That includes curiousity and skepticism about the new STEM school and concerns about whether state budget cuts will destroy the momentum at WSU Tri-Cities and Columbia Basin College.

There was more talk about consolidation than any other topic — pro and con — although proponents of merging the Tri-Cities appeared to have majority.

They think it’s time to start pushing the agenda harder. The thought is that the remaining divided in four small towns — including West Richland — prevents the Tri-Cities from developing an identity that resonates beyond our state borders.

The question raised: “How can Walla Walla, with its size, be on all of the national Atlas maps and most world globes while we are not?”

Proponents worry that without a recognized name and identity, our ability to market ourselves and be heard and found in a global economy will suffer.

People also had things to say about the editorial board and our opinion, but I’ll save that topic for another blog.

We’ll be buying coffee all year long at various venues around the Tri-Cities. We’ll be promoting the 20/20 Vision project, aimed at moving the Mid-Columbia closer a common vision for the future. But we also want to hear about anything else on your mind.

Our next coffee is 7-9 a.m. May 14 at the Kennewick Coffee Co., 101 W. Kennewick Ave. Come on down, we’ll buy the coffee.

Can’t make it? Share your ideas through our 20/20 Vision survey.

We’ll be giving away a I-pod Nano to one participant every month.

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