Strategic planning meeting opens dialogue but leaves much work to be done

Two-year Cedar City resident Ron Pisaturo addresses the council at Thursday night's strategic planning meeting, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 20, 2014 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – The feisty townsfolk that gathered in the crowded conference room of the Heritage Center Theater Thursday night to offer input about Cedar City’s new strategic plan openly criticized the City Council for providing too broad of a presentation.

Each person who entered the room and took a seat was presented with a document outlining key concepts council members said they believed were important to include in the development of the plan.

The papers included a draft version of both a new mission statement for the city and a vision statement. Additionally, the pages contained a summary of core values that council members said can be attributed to the Cedar City community as a whole, based on their observations.

Respect, stewardship, integrity, innovation, family, volunteerism, safety and accessibility were all recurring themes during brainstorming sessions among council members when trying to decide what sort of values to assign to Festival City USA, Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson said.

The special City Council work meeting on Jan. 24, which has since been dubbed the “retreat,” was where much of the concept for developing a strategic plan was devised, City Manager Rick Holman said. The primary focus for the retreat was to evaluate the city’s mission statement.

“This was the statement that we had come up with to tell ourselves and the community why we exist as a city organization,” he said. “They added a vision statement to the mission statement.”

The proposed statements the City Council presented for public comment were:

Mission statement:  Cedar City is dedicated to building on its rich heritage by being responsible stewards of community assets. The City staff and elected officials will provide innovative, reliable, efficient, transparent, and courteous services as we fulfill our responsibilities with dignity and respect to our citizens, neighbors, and visitors.

Vision statement: Cedar City will be known for its safe, friendly atmosphere, educational and cultural opportunities, sustainable and strong neighborhoods, and economic opportunities allowing individuals and families to prosper.

One Cedar City resident said she felt the city should consider amending the vision statement to include: “allowing individuals, families and businesses to prosper” – something the mayor took note of on the legal pad she kept in front of her throughout the meeting.

While some strategic plans can go for 15 to 20 years, Holman said, City Council members recognize that Cedar City is part of a rapidly changing and growing community, and they chose to create a five-year plan instead. Having a strategic plan that is so short will also foster greater accountability between elected officials and the community members they serve.

“One of the reasons that we wanted to go through this strategic planning process is to get some feedback from you – the users of our services – about how (we are) doing,” Holman said. “We know that we can make improvements, and we value your input.”

Holman said it was the hope of the City Council and the mayor that the strategic plan will become a guiding document for elected officials and city staff when it comes to future city planning – a way to ensure the decisions they make are congruent with the wants, needs and vision of Cedar City residents.

The strategic goals outlined in the papers presented to the attending public were divided into five subcategories, each with bulleted points of interest for residents to consider.

The five subcategories – encourage wise economic growth, enhance citizens’ quality of life, improve public infrastructure, ensure financial security and foster community engagement – were intended to provide a starting point to engage conversation, Wilson said. Each person who was present at the retreat created a list of what they believed were important goals, she said, and then they cross-referenced everyone’s lists to find the top five common goals.

These goals became a major talking point for several community members who said they felt as though the bulleted points were not specific enough and the structure made it sound like the city was trying to accommodate everybody’s wants and needs. It was pointed out that by attempting to make sure everyone was getting what they wanted, the city organization runs the risk of looking weak and indecisive – detracting from the goal of creating a definition for what it means to be a Cedar City citizen.

“My main criticism of this document is that I don’t think it captures the virtue of this town,” recent Los Angeles transplant Ron Pisaturo said.

Cedar City resident Tony Salso said he also didn’t feel as though the document presented by the council Thursday night got to the “meat” of what the discussion in the room should have been about.

“I am under the impression I am coming here to deal with specific issues, but this was a very broad goal kind of thing,” he said.

The reason the document was so broad, Holman said, was because it was never intended to be an exhaustive or conclusive presentation about what the City Council has chosen to do for a strategic plan but, rather, a guide to open discussion between community members and the council – fostering a productive dialogue about the future direction of the strategic plan.

Above all, he said, council members want this to be a cooperative effort, not a directive issued to the public by the city’s governing organization. The idea is to encourage an open discussion that will help maintain a measure of accountability and transparency between Cedar City’s elected officials and the public they serve.

Recycling, economic prosperity, water sustainability, concentric growth and development, and tourism were just a few of the topics brought to the table by attendees.

One resident suggested a dog park would be beneficial to both community members and travelers who are passing through the gateway to the national parks, encouraging them to stay and spend their money in Cedar City and, thereby, add to the local economy.

Another pointed out there are still vacant storefronts in Cedar City’s Historical Downtown section, and he said he would like to see more from the city by way of encouraging business owners to move into these spaces.

Americans with Disabilities Act compliance was brought into question by Jarom Hlebasko, a Cedar City resident who is wheelchair-bound and said he has a difficult time on public trails and while traveling through town because of inconsistent sidewalks and ramps and a lack of handicapped-accessible doors.

Pisaturo said he chose to move to Cedar City because it is the kind of place where a discourse like this could even take place. During the time he spent as a Los Angeles resident, he said, he was never invited to participate in a discussion like the one that took place in the Heritage Center Theater Thursday night.

Despite the many issues brought to the table by both the present council and the community members, the only thing that was conclusive Thursday night was that there is still a lot of work left to do before the city’s new strategic plan will be established.

Members of the City Council have created an email address specifically for strategic planning ideas and comments: [email protected]. Holman said all of the emails sent to this address will be reviewed and considered before the next public strategic planning meeting, which is set for Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Heritage Center Theater.

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1 Comment

  • Notagain November 22, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    I know the subject material was only a preliminary draft version of a new short term mission statement and a vision statement for the city, but not one word was mentioned about the goals of the BLM, the preservation of ground hog community, etc. Make sure all city vision statements comply with the Man’s wishes.

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