Residents See Valpo as Dynamic City at ValpoNEXT Summit

By: Erin Evers Last Updated: May 29, 2014

The residents of Valparaiso had the chance to let their voices be heard at the ValpoNEXT Community Summit on Wednesday. Any citizen of the community was able to come and help craft the vision for the future city of Valparaiso. By shaping preferences from major initiatives, the leaders of Valparaiso can have a better understanding of what their citizens value and how to make the city an even better place to live. Located in the Harre Ballroom at Valparaiso University, more than 200 people gathered to voice their opinions on important city development topics.

To kick off the night, Mayor Jon Costas shared how important events like this are to involve the citizens in decisions that affect them and the place they call home.

“It’s important for us to hear from our constituents, to know what is important to them, and whats important to the future of the city. We really need to hear from our citizens. We need to know where they want their city to be in the next 10, 20 and 30 years. That became the genesis of the ValpoNEXT effort. We thought, lets do one of the most comprehensive, in-depth, long-term visionary undertakings that a city our size has ever done,” said Costas.

The steering committee of Valparaiso brought this event to the members of the community to review all of the big ideas they’ve collected through idea workshops, online forums, and other focus sessions throughout the year. The event helped identify preferences and priorities for action in the future by gathering, articulating and forming a vision for the city of Valparaiso moving forward.

“In a democracy, our communities are really made up of our citizens and the people involved in shaping the decision that are made. By articulating what they value, the citizens of the community are more likely take ownership. With this, they are more likely to get involved in the future and the direction of the city will reflect what they want. It is so important that we have a chance for face-to-face interaction about our common lives,” said co-chair of the steering committee for VapoNEXT, Elizabeth Lynn.

After an introduction to the program itself, the polling was explained. With the help of clickers, participants could vote on questions that asked about their opinions on existing programs in Valparaiso and what programs citizens think are necessary for the future. There were three rounds that were categorized around: Place, People, and Prosperity.

As each question was asked, participants had a chance to see immediate results of the most popular voted answer. This showed the wide diversity of opinions, while also showing what ideas the citizens had in common. As they took part in the polling, they were asked to take notes for the discussion portion that ended the night.

“This event focuses on the interest in investment for the future of the city and the future of the next generation. It is what we want Valparaiso to be, what amenities we want to provide, and the history we want to make for the city,” said planning director of the city of Valparaiso, Tyler Kent.

With the information from the polling, city officials will now take two major ideas and look to set them in motion for the improvement of the city. The last question of the polling asked participants how they saw the city of Valparaiso. There was an overwhelming agreement that Valparaiso is a dynamic city that is constantly growing and changing. The ValpoNEXT program provided an efficient and intriguing way to involve the citizens of Valparaiso in the decision that affect their ever growing city.