Cities smartly embracing input from residents

Both the cities of Jackson and Cape Girardeau are actively seeking public input before they move ahead with strategic plans.

We understand the pushback from certain corners of society about spending money on surveys. But it's better to take an analytical approach to what residents want rather than take input only from those who are quick to voice their displeasure about any and everything. Public input is difficult to attain in quantitative measures. Sure, there's comment sections, Facebook, Twitter and phone calls. But it's a difficult process to gather and analyze all of it. In Jackson, city leaders have decided to hire a firm out of Kansas to conduct a survey in a scientific way to get the best data possible. Survey questions will ask residents about their needs for community services, including police, fire, community development, parks and recreation, transportation and public works

The survey will cost $15,770, but when a city is responsible for putting together long-range plans and that will cost millions of dollars, the city believes it better start with the foundation of what its residents want. This is good policy. The surveys will be going out "soon" if they haven't already. We recommend that if you receive one, to take a few minutes to fill it out. It will help make Jackson a better place in the long run.

Meanwhile, Cape Girardeau has already held a number of open meetings in every ward in the city, seeking input from residents. The feedback was helpful, but there were not enough attendees to create a large enough sample to guide the city. The city doesn't want to spend the $40,000 necessary to send out surveys, so officials are kicking around ideas for ways to do it at a lesser rate, including working with Southeast Missouri State University on a student project.

Councilmen Wayne Bowen and Robbie Guard both expressed that the feedback from 85 people is not enough for the city to base its strategic plan. The meetings were a good, first step. But we agree with Bowen and Guard that more information is better.

There are flaws in this area when it comes to community engagement and transparency. There are issues that are concerning. But it's a good sign to see two local entities gathering information from the people they represent before going out and setting a path forward.

We appreciate all our government officials who understand the value of public input, and make it a priority.