2nd strategic planning meeting garners community input

Tuesday night's public strategic planning meeting took place in the council chambers of the City Hall building, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 2, 2014 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – The second of two initial public hearings for Cedar City’s new strategic plan, outlining the mission, vision, values and goals of Southern Utah’s “Festival City,” convened Tuesday night with much excitement in the air.

The strategic plan was first discussed at a Jan. 24 special City Council work meeting in Brian Head that city officials have taken to calling “the retreat.” The purpose of the retreat was to discuss updating and revising the city’s mission statement and adding a vision statement and list of community values defining what the city organization, and the community as a whole, stands for. It was here that the concept for the strategic plan was born.

Materials offered to residents at the first public meeting in November were also given to Tuesday night’s attendees, as the council wanted to ensure all members of the public had equal opportunity to have their voices heard before the city moves into phase two of the strategic plan development.

Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson noted that, prior to the plan being finalized, there would be another public forum after the first of the year to discuss how the public’s recommendations are being implemented. The council will consider all comments shared at the public meetings, as well as any that come from comment cards or from emails received at the special email address that has been established for the strategic plan.

In the information packet handed out at the meeting, residents received a draft of the mission and vision statements, a list of eight values – cornerstones for the foundation of a community – and five overarching goals for city officials to use as a guide when making future decisions on behalf of their constituents.

Though the matter at hand was a serious one, the room was  full of energetic laughter and insightful public opinion, which added to the commentary from the previous mind-melding session. Council members took the time to hear each citizen who showed up to share ideas, and they explained as much as they could about some of the subject matter that was raised by the few who stood to speak.

“One of the main reasons we’re doing this is just to be as transparent as we can, because it’s you folks’ tax dollars that you’ve given us the responsibility to spend wisely,” Cedar City Manager Rick Holman said.

Holman pointed out that under the goal “Ensure Financial Security,” there is a bullet point that talks about maintaining a healthy bond rating and prudent debt levels. The city currently has an A-plus bond rating, he said, and it would be feasible to include a measurement goal within the strategic plan to require the city to reevaluate whether is has maintained the same standard of fiscal responsibility in the future.

“A bond rating is an important thing for the communities,” Holman said, “especially when it’s time for us that we need to bond for something, and so State Bank or some other bank wants to know how reliable the city will be in paying off that bond.”

One important reason for the city’s decision to create a strategic plan, Holman said, was to add measures of accountability for the city to follow that would help track and guide progress on goals.

There were many vocal participants at November’s meeting, but the few who rose to speak at Tuesday night’s meeting offered new perspectives that had not really been touched on before. Issues such as non-vehicular transportation being a virtual nightmare for some commuters, as well as the importance of having master plans that include structural maintenance for existing infrastructure, were at the top of the list for residents who shared ideas at the meeting.

Cedar City resident Matthew Roberts, who is a civil engineer, said before he moved to Utah he traveled everywhere by bicycle in his hometown of Platteville, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, he said, that is no longer something he feels safe doing as a resident of Cedar City.

“There are places I can’t get to in town without being kind of terrified,” he said.

He said his initial impression of Cedar City is that the dominant mode of transportation is motor vehicles, which doesn’t leave much room for people who prefer to walk or ride their bikes for everyday commuting.

While the arts are mentioned briefly in the strategic plan  in the portion of the goals discussing enhancing quality of life opportunities within the community  Cedar City Arts Council President Deb Snider said she feels there should have been more emphasis placed on the arts in the “wise economic growth” section of the plan.

“Two years ago, we had an economic impact study in Iron County that revealed $42.4 million of an economic impact coming from the arts,” she said. “This is largely driven by the Utah Shakespeare Festival, but also there are so many other wonderful arts organizations in our town and our county.”

Snider attended the first public meeting, and though she did not address the council at that time, she passed out a small piece of paper to council members, the mayor and attendees, with a suggested arts addition printed on it. The mayor said the council made note of the suggestion, and it was already added to the list of amendments to be made to the plan and presented to residents before anything is finalized.

Southern Utah University President Scott L. Wyatt sat in on the first half of the meeting. Before leaving, he addressed the council by asking them to please include a section in the strategic plan that emphasizes the diverse educational opportunities Cedar City has to offer and wishes to cultivate for aspiring students.

Other topics brought about heated discussion during the meeting, including the cost of living in Cedar City compared to wage earning potential and the city’s plans, or lack thereof, for a feasible telecommunication infrastructure that would allow for a competitive market.

Cedar City Councilman Fred Rowley said he agreed that a strong telecommunications backbone was essential to economic growth and development.

Comments, suggestions or criticisms regarding the strategic plan can be submitted for consideration through the end of December at this email.

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