We wanted to hear from you, the people of Wichita, because this is your home. We wanted to know where your family lives. Where your job or business is. Where you hope your children or grandchildren choose to live.
More than a year ago, the Wichita City Council said we wanted to hear from as many voices and people as possible, because it was becoming too easy to hear only the voices of people who attend council meetings or who feel strongly enough on an issue to contact council members.
We wanted to hear from you because your local government should be focused on doing what is best for overall community interest. We should help develop opportunity for all to succeed here. It should be your vision we strive for in our short- and long-term decisions.
So, in partnership with Wichita State University, the city government decided to go to where you were and ask about your vision and priorities for our collective future. First, WSU’s Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs designed a statistically valid survey. More than 4,000 people responded. Then we built on that information by attending 102 meetings held by a wide variety of organizations where we listened to more than 2,000 people.
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We asked, and more than 6,000 people of all ages and walks of life spoke. WSU gathered and analyzed what was said:
• Community vision. People want us to balance the needs of today with the needs and concerns of future generations. Themes people shared during the visioning process included a strong sense of community, the need for more jobs and economic diversity, a vibrant downtown, a reliable source of water, and a better place to live for people of all ages.
• Priorities. People recognize that, as a community, we have many priorities to balance. From the survey, the top priority was to create a reliable water source. Three additional priorities ranked high: job creation, street maintenance and helping the homeless.
As a council, we’ve asked city staffers to analyze the community input and develop plans to address your priorities. They will work with other community partners, including the private sector. In the coming months, we’ll talk about how to accomplish these priorities in budget discussions and strategic planning and long-term planning meetings.
Knowing that, just like every family and organization, the city has limited resources, we also asked people about their preferred method of funding priorities:
• 7 percent said reduce taxes and services.
• 11 percent said spend current dollars in a different way.
• 23 percent said increase property tax.
• 58 percent said increase sales tax.
A vast majority of people in the survey said they will place community interests above their personal interests. That’s the Wichita I know – a community that cares.
Elected leaders must also place community interests first, because we all want what’s best for our community – to grow, prosper and provide the same opportunity to the next generation.
I want to thank those who spoke. We have heard. I will continue to hold that information close as we make decisions.
This important work will not be easy. But I pledge to keep our focus on what you said, to continue listening, to ask tough questions about our future, and to make decisions that help move our community forward now and for future generations.