Borough Council Facilitates Community Discussion On Strategic Plan
The State College Borough Council led a discussion Wednesday night to gather community input on the strategic planning process Council began late last year. This process will eventually lead to a clear vision statement defining State College and local government’s role in the development of the community.
“Providing leadership opportunities and exceptional services for an innovative, progressive, and caring community” is the mission statement that the discussion focused on, as well as six “critical success factors” Council drafted.
A summary of the discussion will be delivered to the Borough Council at its next strategic planning session. The six critical success factors and the discussion that surrounded each are as follows:
Welcoming and Engaged
Community members focused on how they consume news in the Borough and the improvements that could be made to the State College website. Many expressed concerns that they were unable to easily access meeting agendas.
The topic of inclusion was also discussed thoroughly in terms of how Penn State students could be more directly involved with the Borough. Some believed that many students don’t even know that the Borough community exists.
The conversation also centered on racial and political diversity in the State College area. It was brought to the attention of the attendees that State College is a “sea of blue,” and that some Republicans feel their voices aren’t being heard.
Safe and Livable
Overall, attendees agreed that State College is a very safe community. Students noted that resources like Safe Walk, text alerts, and the blue light system make them feel safe on campus.
Participants agreed that closing Allen Street to vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian plaza would make State College even more livable. Though this proposal has been shot down before due to a lack of community engagement, community members believe it will create a safer atmosphere for residents and businesses downtown.
Relational and Effectively Governed
Because State College Mayor Don Hahn was in attendance, this segment of the conversation, in which attendees evaluated Hahn’s performance and that of other local officials, felt a bit awkward. The community discussed the importance of the Borough Council actively listening and respecting student opinions.
It was brought up again that Council needs to update their website, and speakers even suggested that Council members follow in Dan Murphy’s footsteps and post agendas on Twitter.
Attendees recognized the importance of elected officials at community events and suggested that representatives be present at events like the State College Women’s March.
Vibrant and Prosperous
At this point, community members were asked about the types of new businesses they would like to see in State College and what it means to have a vibrant and prosperous local economy.
Unsurprisingly, the proposed Allen Street pedestrian plaza was brought up again — attendees claimed it could help local businesses and create a place for people to gather naturally.
Many expressed that more free parking spaces would also help the economy. They were concerned that many people want to come downtown, but stay home because they feel that they have no place to park.
Planned and Sustainable
Some residents suggested free CATA bus services that could transport those who live farther out to the downtown area.
Attendees suggested that downtown State College work on becoming more energy efficient by adding solar panels or even green roofs with vegetation to the tops of buildings.
A major concern brought up was the safety of Atherton Street. Students agreed that they do not feel safe crossing the busy road, especially since sometimes cars in both lanes do not stop for those crossing.
The final topic of the night centered around new and expanded services that the Borough could provide. Since bars play such a big role in the downtown atmosphere, a pouring tax was suggested for those establishments serving alcoholic beverages.
Another concern was the lack of recycling outside. Many said that they see trash that escapes cans and ends up littering downtown. Penn State’s composting program was applauded, and attendees expressed hope that a similar initiative could be implemented downtown.
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