Lawrence residents say housing, jobs and homelessness will be key issues for city’s next strategic plan

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Michelle Ferguson of Novak Consulting Group speaks during a meeting on Feb. 26, 2020, at the Carnegie Building to gather input for the city's strategic plan.

When a group of residents were asked what changes they wanted to see in Lawrence in 10 years, common replies included more affordable housing, higher paying jobs and progress addressing social issues such as homelessness.

About 40 people attended a public meeting Wednesday at the Carnegie Building to gather input for the city’s 2020 strategic plan. The strategic plan, which updates the plan created by the last City Commission in 2017, will set specific goals for the city for the next few years, and commissioners will use the plan when making budget decisions.

Vice Mayor Brad Finkeldei told meeting attendees that he was glad they took the time to attend the meeting and provide input.

“The strategic plan is very important to us as a commission and to us as a city,” Finkeldei said. “It’s what we will work off for the next three to five years, and it’s really important to get your input.”

Attendees at the meeting discussed several questions related to four topics: why they choose to live in Lawrence, the functions of city government, the city’s challenges and opportunities, and the city’s future. Under the future topic, attendees were asked to consider what aspects of the city they want to maintain and what changes they would like to see in the next 10 years.

In addition to housing, jobs and social issues, attendees said they wanted the city to become more environmentally sustainable, expand public transportation and improve sidewalks, trails and other recreational infrastructure. Apart from homelessness, other social issues mentioned were health, income and racial disparities within the community. Attendees said they wanted to maintain the city’s strong neighborhoods, green spaces and the vibrancy of the downtown and the arts.

The city hired the Novak Consulting Group for the 2020 strategic plan process, and the group will facilitate several community engagement activities. Wednesday’s meeting was the first of two large community meetings. The second meeting will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St.

Smaller satellite meetings for those unable to attend the large community meetings took place earlier in the month. The city also created a Lawrence Listens team, which consists of staff members trained to facilitate small-group discussions with community organizations. Groups interested in hosting a discussion led by the team can email strategicplan@lawrenceks.org to request a meeting or additional information. Michelle Ferguson, of Novak, said more than 60 meetings had been planned so far.

An online survey will also be available on the Lawrence Listens website, lawrenceks.org/lawrence-listens, until 5 p.m. on March 7. More information on the strategic plan is available at lawrenceks.org/strategic-plan.

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