The city of Manhattan asks for community involvement, ideas to develop strategic plan

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The first of four meetings saw over 80 registered members.

CrossroadsMHK gives Manhattan community members the opportunity to voice their input and concerns in public virtual meetings from March 22 through March 25.

Focusing on creating a strategic plan for the responsibilities of the city government, CrossroadsMHK is a group of volunteers from the Manhattan community committed to getting feedback from local residents. In a series of hour-long virtual meetings, CrossroadsMHK is giving the public a platform to get involved with decision-making and starting conversations about pressing issues.

Jared Wasinger, assistant to the city manager, said he thinks creating a public strategic plan is long overdue.

“We’re excited to get feedback from the public,” Wasinger said in the first meeting on Monday. “The city of Manhattan has never created a strategic plan, but it is common for cities to do so on a regular basis.”

The first of four meetings saw over 80 registered members. Wasinger said he wants to have “tough conversations” about the budget after the city made cuts because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve seen stagnant growth over [the] past five years, but we want growth to bring more people to our community while bringing prioritization to our current projects,” he said.

The meeting used menti.com to allow users to interact with polls, questions and prompts given during the presentation. Menti.com is similar to websites like Kahoot and Quizizz, where the host is able to see live answers from those participating in the event.

CrossroadsMHK was able to gather demographic questions, like age and involvement in the community, but also ask more serious questions to allow any negative feedback someone might have with the city government.

Most of the negative feedback targeted poor road management like potholes and general construction, but Katie Kingery-Page, associate dean in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design, said she is sad to see the current pay rate in the city.

“When the city has the opportunity to influence rate of pay for jobs, it is important to do this to establish a minimum threshold,” Kingery-Page said in a meeting breakout room. “I see a lot of hard workers at low pay and are being forced out of our community.”

Natalie Gordon, senior development officer for the KSU Foundation, who was in the same breakout room, brought to attention the level of daycare in the community.

“If you have a young family, if you have a young child, [the current daycare situation] forces people to either have a part-time job and have part-time care or leave the community to live closer to family,” Gordon said.

Kingery-Page and Gordon both agreed the city needs to be more open to ideas that could bring it more revenue, especially with the loss of Country Stampede, as Gordon pointed out. Gordon said with any kind of programming, there is a lot of “jumping through hoops,” while Kingery-Page said the city has not been forward-thinking.

“As a community, we need to be putting ourselves in the place of prosperity and vitality thinking,” Kingery-Page said. “A contrast to austerity thinking, ‘There won’t,’ when we should be, ‘We can make this happen.’ I hope we can adopt that mindset.”

The next meetings will be Tuesday, March 23 from 7:30 a.m to 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 24 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursday, March 25 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Registration for the upcoming meetings is on the CrossroadsMHK website. The meetings will follow the same format as the first.

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