OWOSSO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS and staff met at The Armory on Tuesday evening for a special meeting to focus on formulating a strategy to move the city forward in the coming year. The council is enthusiastic to find Owosso in a position to become a destination city and is eager to move Owosso ahead in a positive way, while making sure the constituents are all fairly represented.
Dr. Lewis G. Bender, shown by the easel, joined the meeting to help those in attendance prioritize goals.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
A special goal-setting meeting of the Owosso City Council was held at The Armory on Tuesday evening, Jan. 29. Dr. Lewis G. Bender, a specialist on organizational teams and related variables, was on hand to facilitate the meeting and help council members and staff to focus on a strategy for the coming year. The overall dynamics of the discussion varied between smaller, organizational strategies and broader planning. The main issues deliberated were trash and recycling, rental policy and home/rental conversions, the need for city staff to identify areas of improvement and for everyone to recognize partnering opportunities, with the ultimate directive being to formulate a plan of action. Most of these topics share a connection with the local poverty problem – with opioids and addictions being part of that equation.
Bender shared that he “is an old dog in this type of hunt,” and was passionate about trying to help council “focus on what is doable.” He discussed how numerous municipalities have been in “reactive mode” since the economic plunge in 2008, which changes the way people solve problems. There often has not been time for municipal organizations to focus on planning that was not directly influenced by 2008.
Bender asked council members what their various thoughts were regarding the “biggest strengths” they see in Owosso. Sue Osika, Owosso Mayor Pro Tem, shared she thinks Owosso’s greatest strength relates back to “the vibrant people” who are always willing to volunteer “and make our community a place to go to.” Council members agreed that people were at the core of Owosso’s biggest assets. Bender demonstrated some generational data for the council to digest, showing how the 46 million “Gen Xers” or “the forgotten generation” is sandwiched between the 78 million “Baby Boomers” and the 83 million “Millennials” and how those demographics play into planning. As Millennials are becoming adults, they are seeking out housing that is “walkable” in downtown areas, thus leaving behind the idea of the big house in the subdivision. Millennials generally do not want to care for big yards and are not interested in large families, since many of them recognize they will continue to work more than one job to survive.
Owosso Mayor Chris Eveleth stated he thinks one of the biggest challenges the council is currently facing is the median income – the fact that a job paying $30 per hour in the 1990s is now paying $11 per hour. This statistic, of course, reflects back to the poverty issue, which the council knows it cannot completely tackle, but recognizes the need to continue to make Owosso a community for people of every income. Currently, only 33 percent of the population both lives and works within the city, with 62 percent working in the city, but then going elsewhere to live. The council would like to increase the tax base by accommodating more people to reside in the city.
Ultimately, Bender encouraged council to focus on data driven decision-making that will require a study, or quite likely more than one study, to assist in the planning process.