VALPARAISO | Valparaiso is on the right track, but it needs to keep moving, a consultant told a group of community representatives at the kickoff of the yearlong effort to develop a long-term vision for the city's future.
The Thursday session opened with a presentation from Mayor Jon Costas, who said good planning is essential because it helps the city attain its goals by making it eligible for grants to pay for improvements.
"I'm big on strategic planning," he said. "I'm always living three years in the future, but we reached a point about three years ago that I don't know where to go from here."
After completing many of the obvious goals, such as the new police station, improving the roads and revitalizing the downtown, the city needs to develop a vision community leaders can use as a blueprint for the coming decades, Costas said.
"We're not talking about a strategic plan, although some of the things that are brought out could become part of a strategic plan. This is to help us make sure we are on the right track and doing things that are important to the city."
The committee, made up of 40 or so people from many sectors of the community, was put together to guide the process with the help of ACP Planning and Visioning, a Columbus, Ohio, consultant.
ACP Principal Jamie Greene said one of the first duties of the committee will be to develop a campaign to motivate people to participate in the process.
"We want to tap into the intuition people have about the community as it relates to the realities around them," Greene said. "This committee is the first ripple in the pond that needs to spread out and engage the community."
Greene said a website will be developed to publicize and inform people about the process, and three big public meetings will be held, probably in January after the committee has had time to raise awareness of the effort, to hear residents' ideas on where they would like to see the city going in the future.
After the meetings, the committee will meet to interpret what was said and present it for further response from the community before a final report is issued. Greene asked the committee for ideas on motivating the public to attend the meetings.
"Don't call it strategic planning," Realtor Bob McMahon said.