Were Those 133 People Speaking For You?

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In the March 9 edition of the Payson Roundup, we published the results of a survey put out by the Town of Payson, asking residents what priorities the council and staff should focus on in the coming year.

This survey marked a change in philosophy for the local government.

Every year, the Town sets its Corporate Strategic Plan for the coming year. Town leaders do so during a series of internal meetings. This year, the name of the Corporate Strategic Plan was changed to "Payson Goal Plan" to make the concept more transparent and accessible to the citizens of the town.

Also, through a survey, the Town reached out to the people, offering to listen and steer the direction of Payson's future with that citizen input in mind.

The survey was published twice in the local newspapers and on the Town of Payson Web site. It was mentioned in articles leading up to the publication of those surveys.

As involved as many people are in local politics and as closely as we know most people watch our local government, we expected an outpouring of response to the Payson Goal Plan survey.

For example, voter turnout in November's election was 57.8 percent, an impressive number for a non-presidential election year. High turnout at the polls -- consistently higher in Payson than in many other towns in Arizona -- shows that our community is seriously engaged in the democratic process.

But when the surveys were collected, only 133 people responded. According to a report released by the Town of Payson, 10 of those were from the Town of Payson staff and five of those were members of the Payson Town Council.

Those 133 people spoke for the rest of the community.

According to these 133 people, the top priorities for the Town of Payson included "secure water source," "improve citizen trust," "improve streets," "water conservation" and creation of a "drug-free zone."

The library expansion, public transit and a concert hall were toward the bottom of the priority list.

Perhaps this is a good representation of the entire town.

If it is not, local residents only have themselves to blame. This is not one of those times when disgruntled residents can point the finger at a council that doesn't listen to the public.

The channel of communication was open, and few chose to join the dialogue.

While we are disappointed in the meager participation, we were pleased to see our government reaching out.

Perhaps this was the first step on the road to "improve citizen trust." But as we ask our government to reach out to us, let's not forget it is a two-way street.

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