Other communities should be so lucky to have this problem: Teasing gripes out of mostly satisfied citizens.
That was part of the task of citizen facilitators at our first week of Round Table meetings to set the stage for the update of Decatur’s 10-year Strategic Plan.
Held at 11 different sites between April 27 and May 1, the first Round Table meetings were get-acquainted sessions for participants and opportunities to put broad topics on the table for more focused discussion. Two more rounds of meetings with the same group are planned. By the time the Round Tables wrap in the first week of June, 600+ participants will have taken part in 175 meetings.
So what did Decatur residents want to talk about in their first round of meetings?
Asked to address the pleasures of living in Decatur, residents made long lists of things they liked, from the schools to the small town feel to their favorite places for hanging out on the Square. They lauded the City’s response to action items on the last Strategic Plan. And they registered their desire for more of the same: More safe walking and biking routes, greater diversity of housing and shopping choices, continued strong support for schools and youth programs, and further enhancement of Decatur’s reputation as friendly to the arts.
When it came to finding nits to pick, the lists were shorter. As a matter of fact, many of the facilitators had to coax and probe for problem areas to explore in greater detail. But there are challenges ahead that many participants could agree upon. Among them:
- Automobile traffic, parking, pedestrian and biking safety and all the connected issues of mobility. How can we achieve successful coexistence between cars, bicycles, and people?
- Sustainability. Are there ways Decatur can become “greener” in the broadest sense, from local food production and distribution to energy conservation to resource (especially water) management?
- Infrastructure. Roads, sidewalks, storm water management, parks and green space – how can we address those needs in an era of limited resources?
- Coping with an aging population. What can the City do to help residents age comfortably in the neighborhoods they call home?
- Community affordability. What combination of programs and policies have to be in place to assure that Decatur continues to be accessible to a broad range of ages and incomes?
With those issues and others like them on record, now comes the tough part – drilling down more deeply and exploring options for addressing them. That’s the work that will set up the drafting of the Strategic Plan that will take Decatur into the next decade.
Whether or not you’re among the record 600+ participants who signed up for Round Tables, you can follow the discussion on these web pages. Better yet, join in the conversation right here. At the end of each of these posts is a form for providing your own thoughts and ideas. Let’s extend the Round Tables into an online forum. Your comments will be factored into the report at the end of the Round Tables phase, helping to shape the agenda for drafting the Strategic Plan.
To help you focus your thoughts, in upcoming posts we’ll present some questions for discussion. Share your suggestions. Engage with your fellow citizens. Keep the conversation going.