City leaders are looking for a wide range of community groups to participate in the final phase of ACT ICT, a year-long community engagement process that will help determine priorities for Wichita’s future.
Nearly a dozen of Wichita's Uptown Neighborhood Association members gathered in the basement of College Hill United Methodist Church to share their ideas.
John Schlegel, Director at Wichita/Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department facilitated the event. Schlegel asks the group to see Wichita ten years from now and what aspirations they might have for the city.
Urban Sprawl and Transportation
“We could put an end to the sprawl,” says Lori Lawrence, “Keep our inner cities sustainable.”
Lawrence says urban sprawl is causing lots of changes including the planned move of her former high school, Wichita Southeast to a new facility at 127 Street East and Pawnee.
Cathie Rayes says zoning contributes to sprawl.
“It’s very much in favor of new neighborhoods and big houses,” says Rayes. “It needs to be in favor of preservation and reuse. It also needs to be in favor of buses.”
Paul Oberg, President of the Uptown Neighborhood Association, says transportation is a key issue and Cathie Rayes agrees. She thinks Wichita has become too much of a car city and we need to take some of the emphasis off of cars and put it on to mass transportation.
“Not only am I a mass transit user, I am a pedestrian,” says Rayes. “We don't have sidewalks. You cannot get from Hillside to Dillons' front door on a sidewalk because there aren't any.”
She says she would feel safer walking if every parking lot had a sidewalk for a pedestrian to get to the front door of a business.
Sherry Whitmore says Wichita needs to focus on good jobs so people can earn enough money to live comfortably and not look for jobs elsewhere.
“In the next 10 years Wichita needs to really decide what it wants to be,” says Mike Barushok “Deciding things like whether or not we can really be an attraction for conventions and vacations. We've been just a swinging pendulum and we just need to decide where we are going to be along that spectrum and stay with it.”
Paul Oberg says the city doesn’t need to search elsewhere for it’s identity. Making Wichita livable will probably go further to help create a unique atmosphere for the city.
Ray “Grizzly” Racobs, understands what Oberg is saying, but he doesn't't feel that we always have to start from scratch.
“Don't fix the wheel that's not broken,” says Grizzly. “But don't reinvent the wheel cause it's already invented so just follow along.”
Becoming A Green City
Lori Lawrence contributed her thoughts on how to make Wichita a more environmentally friendly city.
"I think the city needs to encourage recycling," says Lawrence. "We just need to go green. Wichita is a beautiful city and it needs to go green."
Lawrence also wonders why there isn’t a green roof on top of city hall or why solar panels aren't on top of the libraries. She feels that it’s not much more expensive to build LEED, but it would save the city a lot of money.
The issue of water as a priority was also raised. Lawrence says that even with the two-year drought in Wichita, the focus should remain on reduced water use.
Neighborhood Association member Larry Ross feels that voters have and continue to shape the city, but he also expresses concern about the turnout during elections.
“If there would be a concerted effort to increase not only voter registration but voter turnout, I think you’d get a better cross section," says Ross. "If this increases discussions and alternatives, so be it. That's part of the process but right now the make up of the people that actually vote is not what it could be and perhaps not what it should be”.
Facilitator John Schlegel says people have commented that they want Wichita to provide jobs, have a diversified economy and provide solid basic services including quality water and maintained streets.
Beyond that, people also want parks and cultural attractions that would make Wichita a fun place to live with lots of things to do.
Rising costs will be a factor, something Schlegel has been able to share at the meetings. Numerous planning sessions, and focus groups were held earlier this year to help determine Wichita’s top issues for the next decade.
Civic groups, churches and other organizations are encouraged to schedule future meetings.
The city enlisted Wichita State's Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs to help coordinate the effort. A community survey netted 4000 responses from 25,000 registered voters.
Using electronic devices, members of the Uptown Neighborhood Association individually ranked their four top priorities from the survey result priority list:
- Create a reliable source of water
- Meet the needs those that are homeless and improve low income neighborhoods including housing
- Create additional green space and parks
- Create additional bicycle and walking paths public transportation including bus service that is faster and more convenient.
Schlegel says the city has important decisions to make and the community meetings give people an opportunity to have some say in that and Paul Oberg agrees.
“There has to be some responsibility from the grassroots level as well as the upper administration,” says Oberg. “They meet somewhere in the middle, something actually might happen.”
The city will prepare a report that summarizes all the input received from various groups and release it for public review. The results will be finalized and presented to the Wichita City Council in February.
To schedule a meeting, please contact: LaShonda Garnes 268-4594 firstname.lastname@example.org