VALPARAISO | The city wants all its residents to tell it where to go - at least, in terms of the city's future direction.
With that in mind, the city launched the "Valpo Next" website to try to generate interest in the three big public input sessions planned for Feb. 24-26 at sites yet to be named. The website at www.valponext.org explains the massive effort to develop a vision for the city for the coming decades.
"We are trying to reach as many people as we can in a variety of ways," City Administrator Bill Oeding said. "The website is one of those tools because we want people to show up at the meetings. The meetings will be structured in a way so people of various backgrounds can share their thoughts."
The website provides information on how to be involved in the year-long process of developing the vision under the guidance of ACP Visioning and Planning, of Columbus, Ohio. A 40-member committee representing a wide scope of community stakeholders and age groups was appointed to guide the process and help promote it in the community.
The committee will be meeting with smaller groups representing various interests from business, faith, nonprofit, education and others in addition to the three large public meetings. All the input will be distilled by the committee and ACP into a final report due by next fall.
Oeding said the February meetings are for everyone, especially those who don't belong to any of the specific groups or who would rather offer their opinions in a general public gathering. The city also is using the social media, Twitter, Facebook and others, to spread the word and gather comments.
"We think the big public meetings are a great way to get community feedback," Oeding said. "We will have posters around town, and we will be making direct contact with people. The committee will work with getting in touch with community groups. We'll also use typical media, like radio and newspapers."
The city administration developed strategic plans covering the past 10 years and dealing with many of the city's most pressing issues, like street resurfacing, a new police station, public works campus and revitalization of the downtown and other areas. Now it wants to look farther into the future to provide a blueprint for future administrations.
Saying "There is always room for improvement," the website explains, "Communities are constantly changing. The vision plan will help to ensure that the things you treasure about Valparaiso only get better and that our city remains a model for other communities."
ACP is teamed with Burgess and Niple, also of Columbus, which will concentrate on transportation, traffic, utility infrastructure and sustainability issues, and Randall Gross, which will look at economic impacts of the plan. The project is being funded with $200,000 from the city's share of the casino revenue.