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Wichita, Sedgwick County seek residents’ input on spending

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, at 8:07 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, August 23, 2013, at 4:55 p.m.

The city of Wichita and Sedgwick County want to know how residents think tax money should be spent.

The two governments have launched a public engagement process called the “Community Investments Plan ... A Framework for the Future.” Guided by Wichita State’s Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, the process will begin in mid-October and continue through early next year.

At the city level, it’s the first step in a formal reorganization of the “citizen engagement process ... to change the way we work with our residents,” City Manager Robert Layton said, with further initiatives this year oriented toward more-specific citizen input on city issues.

Five hundred Sedgwick County residents have been randomly selected and notified by letter of four special meetings this month, the first step in a series of studies to shape local decisions on such issues as economic development, public transit, water, streets and drainage.

“We’ve got to start figuring out where we want to go in the next 30 years, and what the citizens believe is our priority one,” said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who wanted more input into the city’s budget process and policy decisions.

“It’s important to get citizens engaged,” Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Tim Norton said. “Good things come from policy decisions alone, the hard work of volunteers, and some comes from the investment of community dollars.

“Personally, I like to hear what’s important to people and where they want to spend their money. You hear a lot about ‘don’t spend any money,’ but people like to live in places with good infrastructure, quality of life, a sense of space and place.”

The meeting schedule for the 500 selected county residents includes:

• 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wichita Water Center

• 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sedgwick County Zoo’s Cargill Learning Center

• 7 p.m. Oct. 22, Linwood school cafeteria

• 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29, WSU Hughes Metropolitan Complex

The four meetings are not open public forums, and only the 500 selected residents will be allowed to participate. Layton said observers will be allowed.

Brewer wants the study’s results to blend with other public studies by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals of Wichita for a picture of how Wichita can grow to best help the region prosper.

“We are the largest city in the state, and what we do affects people within a 100-mile radius,” the mayor said. “I don’t just want to know what Wichitans think about how we should spend our resources, but what the guy in Andover thinks who spends most of his time in Wichita, working and spending what he earns.”

A final community survey will be compiled from the 500-member focus group and administered to 25,000 randomly selected residents of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

When the results of that survey are completed, the original 500 people will be “re-engaged,” Layton said, to help interpret the results.

The results of that interpretation will be provided to the public in a group of as-yet-unscheduled community meetings next year.

“What you’ll have at the end are a series of funding priorities, and some thoughts on funding sources,” the city manager said.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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