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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: Residents to have voice in city's blueprint

THE ISSUE: Town hall will help set city's priorities

OUR VIEW: Residents' involvement crucial to creating vision

Twenty years ago, Ottawa residents gathered for several hours to brainstorm priorities for the city and determine a vision they wanted city leaders to follow.

When we elect our City Council members, we put our faith in them that they will work for the people. And while we're certain they talk with numerous residents about their concerns and hopes for the city, there's much to be gained with an organized effort to collect ideas and prioritize them as a group.

In 1998, some of the priorities compiled at the town hall meeting included: more jobs, a master plan for riverfront development, an industrial park, tourism promotion and more.

While all the items on the 1998 list, and even another list compiled in 2004, haven't been completed, we've seen an effort by current and past council members to focus on these items.

We're sure several of the priorities will remain; however, much has changed in the past 20 years.

Another point we're sure about is residents have ideas. Lots of them. We see them every day on social media, letters to the editor and other forms of communication.

And on Thursday, Oct. 25, residents will have a great venue to share those ideas and concerns, and play an important role in creating a blueprint for Ottawa's future.

The Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry is gearing up to host a town meeting from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall, 401 W. Main St., where the public is invited to share their thoughts as to what should be in the top 10 priorities for the city of Ottawa.

In fact, it was at the inaugural event in 1998 that sparked Mayor Bob Eschbach to run for mayor in the first place, using the top 10 list as part of his election platform. With Eschbach announcing the end of his five terms as Ottawa’s mayor, the timing is perfect for another town hall to help guide the city's future goals.

“From Day 1, he started working on that top 10 list,” said Chamber Executive Director Boyd Palmer. “That’s why we’re where we’re at today, because Bob took it upon himself to say ‘this is what the community wants, let’s do it.’ ”

Palmer said attendees can expect to have their suggestions taken seriously since the ones provided 20 years ago served as a template for the City Council to follow for many years.

Attendees at the event will divide up into multiple groups and be asked a number of questions in smaller groups. The group members will then be asked to select a list of 10 to be added to a larger collection of priorities picked from the other groups.

The entire room will then vote on the large number of issues until a firm top 10 priorities are determined.

Assistant Executive Director of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry Meg Skelly said the event will help determine which priorities are common among the groups, and the ones with the most votes will make their way to the top.

More than 150 residents attended the event in 1998 and almost 100 attended in 2004. The chamber hopes to see similar numbers to the original event because the more guests who attend means more voices and perspectives to help ensure the top priorities are reflective of the community as a whole.

“This is the time to take a proactive approach. Now is the time to let your voice be heard before the change in administration,” Skelly said. “I think whatever change (in the City Council) looks like, they’re going to be open to hearing what the city wants.”

Yes, the meeting will be several hours long, but it will be well worth your time if you're interested in having a voice in the direction of the city.

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