City seeking more input on strategic plan and spending priorities amid pandemic and racial justice issues

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016

The City of Lawrence is reopening community feedback on the city’s strategic plan to see how racial justice movements and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected community priorities.

The Lawrence City Commission will use the feedback to inform its strategic plan, which helps guide the commission’s budget decisions. The city already collected feedback from residents in February and March, but states in a news release that it is reopening feedback “to see how recent events, including issues of racial equity as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, may have affected community perceptions and priorities.”

Budget and Strategic Initiatives Administrator Danielle Buschkoetter said the city was reopening the public input to acknowledge that both issues may affect some of the feedback that was previously received. Buschkoetter said the questions that would be used to guide the feedback were not finalized yet but that the city wanted to check whether the previously gathered input about spending priorities needed updating.

“Is the information that we heard in those two public outreach opportunities still true today and, if not, what has changed?” Buschkoetter said.

The reopening of public input for the city’s strategic plan comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to negatively affect city revenue, as well as nationwide and local protests against police killings of Black people and systemic racism. Mayor Jennifer Ananda also recently called for various changes to policing, including reallocating funding provided to law enforcement to handle noncriminal issues and instead using that money to support related social services.

The new input can be submitted in three ways. That includes virtual meetings, called “Community Check-ins,” that will be held via Zoom at 10 a.m. on July 8 and 4 p.m. on July 9, according to the news release. Residents can sign up for the meetings using an online form available at lawrenceks.org/strategic-plan/meetings/.

The meetings will be facilitated by the Novak Consulting Group, which the city hired to help collect feedback and create the strategic plan. Buschkoetter said that the consultants would break meeting participants into small discussion groups, which can be done virtually using Zoom, as part of the meeting and provide questions for the groups to respond to.

An online and hard-copy survey with those same questions will also be available to those who can’t particulate in the virtual meetings, according to the release. The online survey will be available July 6-12 on the city’s Lawrence Listens platform, lawrenceks.org/listens/surveys. Paper copies of the survey will be available to pick up that same week at the information window on the first floor of City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

Registration for the virtual meeting will close 48 hours before the meeting time, and each meeting will be limited to 100 people because of technology limitations, according to the release. If more people are interested, additional meetings will be scheduled and any additional meeting dates and times will be posted at lawrenceks.org/strategic-plan.

Buschkoetter said the new input gathered would supplement the input already collected earlier this year. More than 3,000 people provided input through various community meetings, employee groups and an online survey, according to the release. Consultants analyzed the collected feedback, and the results are available to review on the city’s website, Lawrenceks.org.

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