The city of Gering is working on a comprehensive plan which will soon be unveiled and presented to the Gering City Council. The plan is built with the input of citizens, in Gering’s case, an online survey, along with one open house.

This plan will be the roadmap for Gering for the next 10-20 years. The goal of a comprehensive plan is to help a community determine its goals and aspirations in terms of community development.

Gering had 150 people respond to the online survey asking for input on the plan. There are 8,225 people who call Gering their home, according to the United States Census Bureau. So the plan has the input of less than 2% of the population.

This is terrible, however, Scottsbluff, who updated their comprehensive plan in 2016 did an online survey and three focus groups. The online survey was filled out by 186 residents. The three focus groups brought in a total of 42 people. With a total of 228 people giving input, plus an open house in Scottsbluff, with 15,039 according to the 2010 U.S. Census, a little more than 1.5% of Scottsbluff residents gave input into where their city will go in the next 10 years.

Both cities might have been able to do more, but would it have resulted in much more respondents?

The Scottsbluff plan is 116 pages presenting a community vision, a look at growth and land use, future land use, a breakdown of each district, a look at transportation, utilities, parks, and much more. It can be found on the city’s website and it is very interesting. But it, like Gering’s, had less than 2% of the city’s residents give input.

As citizens we too often are much more reactive than active. When city officials consider something we don’t agree with, we show up demanding action, but we often arrive at city or county commissioner meetings at the end of the debate instead of when the ideas are first being presented. The studies are done, input collected, all during which we were absent, but now we react.

We the people, who our elected officials and city employees work for, need to get more involved in the process.

“I’m too busy,” you say or maybe, “I’m involved when I need to be.”

Here are some questions for you to test your involvement, or at least your knowledge of your community.

Who is your city’s mayor?

Can you name two or three of the representatives of your city council?

What about your school board? Who is the school superintendent?

Which county commissioner represents you?

Who is your state senator?

Have you ever attended a city council and/or school board meeting?

Over the last year, have you ever written, called or emailed a city council member, school board or any other elected official with a question, concern or suggestion?

The beauty of this great country is our ability to let our voice be heard.

“They won’t listen, so why bother.”

If elected officials don’t listen then we can remove them with our vote. We can call for, and with enough people, elected officials can be recalled before their term ends. Neither are easy, but we can make changes if we are active.

On the local, city and county levels, your voice is much louder and your impact felt fastest. At the local level, you can help shape your community today and for the distant future.

Those who are active in their local government will map their community’s future and the reactors will complain, too late and find themselves having to live with discussion made by a small group of their neighbors.

A community’s future needs the input of more citizens than 150-228 active citizens verses 8,075-14,811 reactive.

Moving forward, let’s get active.

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