Casper City Council Adopts Community Strategic Plan, Invites Public Participation
At the conclusion of nearly four hours of testimony Tuesday evening Casper City Council adopted a Community Strategic plan for 2013. The plan outlines seven goals and objectives that will be used to guide the city budgetary process over the next 5 to 7 years. City council heard from nearly 40 citizens who spoke both for and against the plan. The majority were in support and the majority focused on the goals surrounding the economic development of the city's downtown.
Councilman, Charlie Powell, summed up Tuesday evening's discussion saying, "I think the real value of bringing this forward is what we've seen here tonight. I appreciate all of you staying here and all of your comments. And I don't mean just the people speaking in favor of this plan, because I think over the next 12 to 18 months some very serious decisions are going to be made and we need cheerleaders, but we also need the naysayers and those who are bringing up risks and concerns that we need to take into consideration. "
Sorting out exactly which plan city council was considering for adoption presented a challenge through the evening. After slogging through confusion over past attempts at planning, further complicated by the existence of two plans; one a long term vision for downtown and the other that applies city wide and affects budgetary decisions in the near term.
Mayor Kenyne Schlager repeatedly pointed out the Downtown Strategic plan, as proposed by Crandall-Arambula this summer, was not under discussion, despite its obvious ties to downtown development and possible investment in a conference center.
The seven-goal-approach in the Community plan was culled from input by stakeholders at community meetings last spring.
Casper Resident, Brenda Mongold, pressed the council on who those stakeholders were.
"How can we find out who these stakeholders are? What is the criteria? How come they're more important than me? I didn't get an invitation. Over 400 stakeholders were sent an invitation for input on goals for my community. And don't get me wrong. I'm not in opposition to you. I know you love the city as much as I do."
Mongold's comments mirrored the distrust coming from some regarding the process. She pointed out that, of the 400 invited less than half participated.
Meantime, of those addressing the council Tuesday, the majority praised the plan saying it's the right road map for the city.
Bruce Lamberson, a Casper business owner told the council, "I want you to know that I agree with all seven of the Community Strategic Plan goals. Those broad goals I think are excellent. I'd like to comment quickly on specifically downtown development. Ya know, through the 1980s downtown was dead and dying. The first signs of life we saw was Randy Pride and his group opening theaters. What guts. And that started bringing people down in the evenings."
Lamberson says he supports a downtown conference center vision and pointed to the effects of a vibrant downtown and good recreational options as vital in keeping youth in Casper.
Jared Fehringer followed Lamberson shortly after saying, "I am one of those people that Mr. Lamberson spoke about who were borne and raised here, turned 18 and hit the road."
Fehringer is back, but he says he misses the vibrancy of downtowns like those in Billings or Fort Collins and wishes he could find that vibrancy here and spend his entertainment dollars locally.
A number of young professionals spoke up in favor of a progressive movement toward city development. Others pointed to its importance in recruiting professionals to live and work in Casper.
The Casper Community Strategic Plan outlines seven separate goals ranging from economic development, infrastructure up keep, public services support and investment in recreational options.