Lincoln residents participating in the City's October Community Conversation on budget issues said the City should increase funding for street and sidewalk repair, but not at the expense of other City services. The October 19th discussion was part of the Taking Charge public engagement process that also included an online survey.
"Citizens want City Hall to take care of what we already have," Mayor Beutler said. "They demonstrated a clear preference for fixing the streets they drive every day. They want an end to the potholes that create wear and tear on vehicles. They want the neighborhood sidewalks to be safe, smooth routes for students walking to school, neighbors taking an evening stroll or people going to work, rather than barriers to movement."
The findings of the Community Conversation are part of the Taking Charge final report issued today. The City has partnered with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center on the Taking Charge process since 2008. This year's efforts focused on a strategic plan of action. More than 1,100 people participating in an online survey this summer identified Safety and Security and Efficient Transportation as the top two outcomes. About 100 people participating in the Community Conversation focused on a strategic spending plan in those two areas.
Beutler said the discussion participants understand the importance of new roads and the South Beltway to promote economic development and ease congestion. But when it comes to budgeting with limited resources, rehabilitation of existing roads is the highest priority. And none of the discussion groups recommended general fund cuts to fund roads.
"They do not want parks, pools, libraries and aging services to be cut in order to put more money into roads," he said. "They appreciate what these amenities do for their families and their role in attracting people to our community. Strategic planning that pits roads against other services will split the community and run counter to the consensus we hope to achieve from this effort."
In the area of Safety and Security, online participants focused on keeping the crime rate low, but the discussion groups were more concerned with the eroding emergency response rate to the edges of the City.
"When presented with performance indicators for both crime rates and emergency response, participants told us that bringing more addresses into the five-minute response range had to be the City's top public safety priority," Beutler said. "They see the fire station relocation plan as a crucial component to the strategic planning that will emerge from these sessions."
The Mayor said he would announce next week the first steps to focus on the challenges identified by citizens, followed by a comprehensive plan next spring.
"The challenges associated with infrastructure require a comprehensive, long-term strategy," Beutler said. "Keeping families safe and secure demands a similar outlook. I want to take the time to develop a long-term plan that meets these challenges within the parameters set by the community during this process."
Survey results and more information on the Taking Charge process are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: taking charge). More information on the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is available at ppc.nebraska.edu.