DeKalb citizens talk strategic plan

By Alexander Chettiath

The City of DeKalb, with help from the NIU Center for Governmental Studies, has held five community meetings in hopes to receive citizens’ input for a strategic 10-year plan.

The project began in 2013 when City Council hired the NIU Center for Governmental Studies to hold discussions on planning for the future. The outcome was a plan to develop a 10-year strategy using community opinions, said City Manager Anne Marie Gaura.

“The purpose is to get as much feedback from the residents, business people and students who live, work and go to school here to see where they want DeKalb to go from here,” Gaura said. “The city is embarking on a 10-year strategic plan, which is unprecedented and is looking at a long term vision.”

The NIU Center for Governmental Studies provides expertise that helps decision-makers implement efficient, sustainable and cost-effective approaches to economic, social and information management issues.

The conversations held in the meetings will be documented by the center and separated into themes to be discussed by elected City officials and senior appointed City leadership and staff in August. A strategic plan will be created and available for public review and comment, according to the City of DeKalb website.

“I think it is a great opportunity for citizens of DeKalb to be a part of shaping their future,” said Sangeeta Sonny, 27, of DeKalb. “When it comes to government, it seems that our opinions are not factored in.”

The community members who attended the meetings were broken down into groups, and each group carried their own discussion about the future of DeKalb. Topics of discussion included the City’s assets and opportunities for improvement, suggestions for changes to DeKalb and ways for the City to maintain ongoing communication with its constituents.

“I think that the town needs to be glamorized,” Sonny said. “My experience as a student was that I would visit my friends’ schools more often than them visiting me. An increase in traffic brings more revenue to our town. Of course, keep it a safe distance from the townies but within city limits.”

The meetings that have taken place have averaged 20 to 30 people. The city hopes to continue involving DeKalb citizens in this plan with a feedback system not yet determined, Gaura said.

A final strategic plan will be presented to City Council for action in October, according to the City of DeKalb website.