York City asked for input, but few showed up
Sitting around a table at the United Way of York office on Thursday, the team tasked with helping plan the city's future was ready to listen to residents detail problems in their neighborhoods.
But garnering input for the city's 20-year comprehensive plan proved to be difficult, as not one resident unaffiliated with the team attended the meeting.
Thursday, Dec. 12, was just one example of how news releases and occasional mentions of the comprehensive plan meetings proved to not be enough to garner community input.
Of the 10 meetings throughout the city, only 88 people attended, leaving the average attendance in the single digits. Those individuals make up roughly 0.2% of the city's population, which totals more than 44,000 people.
"Marketing the government is difficult," said city planner Mike Pritchard, who is spearheading the comprehensive plan efforts. "It's not things that people think about on a regular basis. But we want to make sure that we're reflecting the ideas from as many people as we possibly can."
The city's vicennial comprehensive plan addresses a wide variety of topics, including population trends, housing and the local economy. Many of the priorities are related to economic development.
This time around, the city is attempting to broaden its contents. That includes addressing violence and crime in the city, building up infrastructure and making the area more marketable.
Pritchard has called the comprehensive plan the "compass and road map of where we want to go" while speaking at the meetings over the past two weeks dedicated to identifying problems in the city.
Although the variety pack of chips and Diet Cokes weren't able to entice that many residents, Pritchard asserted the comprehensive plan team was still able to walk away with plenty of helpful input.
"I do feel confident that we have a good idea of what the big topics on people's minds are," he said.
Some of the most prevalent concerns raised at the meetings included education, bringing in jobs, housing and the cleanliness of the city.
Some residents who participated had more specific concerns and recommendations.
At the final meeting at the York Housing Authority office on Monday, Dec. 16, Ellie Nowak detailed what she sees as a lack of transportation opportunities to travel to nearby cities.
The city should look into creating a railway system to create a link between York and areas such as Lancaster, she said. By doing so, more individuals would visit York and those living in the city could continue to do so while commuting elsewhere to work.
Tynisha Wilkes noted the city lacks the transitional housing needed to help bring residents out of poverty. The city also needs to begin prioritizing investments outside of the downtown area, she said.
In the spring, the city's comprehensive plan team will hold another round of public meetings to garner community input about what the future of York City should look like.
No dates have been set.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.