Naperville officials are all ears.
As work continues toward the first update of the city’s strategic plan in 15 years, staff members are looking for input from the community. They specifically want to know what people think about the road map they have sketched out for reaching the three goals chosen for priority in the vision’s revision.
City Manager Doug Krieger told the handful of residents who came out for an open house in the City Council chambers Tuesday that the time is right for modernizing the municipal blueprint. In the decade and a half since the last update, Naperville has grown through the annexation of some 3,000 acres of previously unincorporated land.
“That’s five square miles,” said Krieger, rattling off some of the developments that have come onto the scene as a result of the expanded population: Naperville Crossings, Springbrook Prairie Pavilion, Freedom Commons, 95th Street Library, and the permanent home for the DuPage Children’s Museum on North Washington Street.
A demographic shift has come with the growth as well.
“We are absolutely becoming a much more diverse community,” said Krieger, who pointed out that the Chinese-language version of the city website launched in January has seen more than 1,000 visits so far, and noted that Indian Prairie District 204 is on track for its white students to cease being a majority population by 2018.
“Certainly in addition to the diversity, the low-income percentage of our residents has increased significantly and that is absolutely something that the city needs to address,” he said.
Each department head overseeing one of the goals provided a brief overview of the progress they and their staff have made so far.
Transportation, Engineering and Development chief Bill Novack said an array of projects, both planned and in process, will move the community toward the objective of alleviating traffic congestion. Gridlock can never be eradicated entirely, he said, nor would that be a wise goal.
“Congestion is an indicator of a healthy environment in a community. It’s one of those things that you desire — a little bit, but not too much,” Novack said.
Among the items on the to-do list for Novack’s department are establishing a transportation management center that will enable traffic signals to adapt to congestion arising from road work or accidents; building cooperation with DuPage County and Aurora to get improvements done on 75th Street and North Aurora Road, respectively; updating the city’s comprehensive transportation plan; and securing federal grant money to improve access for pedestrians and bicyclists on South Washington Street. City staff also will work with representatives from the Naperville Police Department on ways to cut gridlock resulting from minor traffic collisions.
Tasks that will help achieve the goal of making Naperville a leader in e-government also are being planned.
The objective will have been reached, coordinator and City Clerk Pam Lafeber said, when residents and business people are relieved of much of the frustration that comes from the currently more cumbersome ways of accomplishing such things as applying for city jobs and paying for licenses, permits, booking fees and inspections. A public-private tech committee will be created, Lafeber said, to leverage community expertise and assist project planning.
“Society as a whole, and our customers specifically, are becoming increasingly mobile. Just think of all the business that you conduct from your home, work and mobile device,” she said, noting that since the digital revolution has rendered the traditional work day a thing of the past, people need more ways to do more things in their own time frames. “The city is really a group of small businesses, and businesses worldwide have found a way to operate 24/7.”
Linda LaCloche, the city’s communications manager, is overseeing work toward the goal of improving community education and involvement. The effort will involve actively engaging residents to encourage more two-way communication. It’s a practice exhibited by the private sector regularly, LaCloche said, and it will serve to boost transparency in city business.
Residents want easy access to information, she said, and opportunities to have immediate feedback.
“Technology has evolved and so we need to evolve with it,” LaCloche said to one of the residents who attended the open house. “We need to engage people better.”
Amy Emery, assistant to the city manager and manager of the strategic plan update, said it’s exciting to see the process get rolling. An intergovernmental meeting later this month will give other taxing bodies a chance to have input, and staff expects to have a plan ready for City Council approval in November.
“We have three really good goals to move forward with,” Emery said. “That gives us a real focus.”
For more information about the plan, and ways to provide input, visit www.naperville.il.us/strategicplan.aspx.