Eagle editorial: Guide Wichita’s future

What do Wichitans want for their city’s future? What should its priorities be? Where should we go from here?

These are some of the questions that Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer hopes Wichitans will help answer at public-engagement meetings between now and the end of the year. As many citizens as possible should participate and make their views known.

The city hopes to hold at least 100 meetings with local civic, church, neighborhood and business organizations – really, any group or club that meets somewhere. At the meetings, which last about one hour, a facilitator gives a brief overview of some of the issues facing the city and presents results from a recent community survey. Participants then vote on their priorities using electronic voting controls.

Some of the issues discussed are jobs and the economy, water, infrastructure, public transportation, parks and downtown. Citizens also discuss whether the city should reduce taxes and reduce or outsource services, raise taxes and expand services, or expand some services but fund that by shifting funds within the city’s budget.

Ground rules for the meetings say that all opinions are welcome and that participants need to be respectful and civil. The meetings also try to focus on creating a better future for the next generation and doing what’s best for the community, rather than on personal interests.

Brewer thinks the city hasn’t done a very good job finding out what everyday citizens want. He hopes that by going into the community, rather than expecting citizens to come to City Hall, the city can have an honest conversation with a broad range of citizens.

He then wants these conversation and survey results to guide local leaders in making decisions.

“The community is making the determination of where to go,” Brewer said.

The meetings are part of a larger outreach effort by the city. City Manager Robert Layton is creating a community-engagement office, and the city launched an online forum where citizens can share ideas and discuss issues: www.activate-wichita.com.

“There are meaningful conversations that we need to have,” Layton said.

But for this outreach to work, citizens need to participate. To arrange for a city facilitator to meet with your local group, contact LaShonda Garnes at 316-268-4594 or lgarnes@wichita.gov.

When asked how many Wichitans he hoped would take part in these discussions, Brewer said that his ideal was 384,000 – meaning everyone. That’s unlikely, but the more citizens who engage and share their dreams for Wichita, the more likely those dreams will come true.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee