‘Citizen Summit’ Helps Update RPB’s Strategic Plan

About 40 Royal Palm Beach residents participated Tuesday in the second annual Citizen Summit to review and add to the village’s Strategic Plan.

More than a dozen staff members and council members also attended the event held at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center, mostly to listen and answer questions.

“As some of you already know, the Strategic Plan is a document that we use to help us get to a vision,” Village Manager Ray Liggins said to those attending. “The vision we created out of last year’s process doesn’t change much. It’s a long-term vision. Most of the policy decisions we have turned into action. That is the result of this planning process.”

The summit is the opportunity for residents to participate in the process, he said.

“We incorporated the information that we got last year into the modifications for this year’s plan,” Liggins explained. “We believe that if we have the same shared vision, we can talk about the same thing. This is a long-term process. It goes on year after year, and it’s used to guide us in how we spend taxpayers’ money.”

Liggins introduced consultant Lyle Sumek, who led the process last year and was back to update the document.

Sumek said he would be asking some similar and some different questions from last year for separate groups of seven or eight people to consider.

“This year, as I travel around working with cities, it’s a lot different than a year ago,” Sumek said. “We’re in a very different economic time. Cities are seeing different things happening than they did a year ago, and really the Strategic Plan is an ongoing process. We’re looking for your ideas.”

Sumek said the point of the summit was to engage residents in the process. “Your input is used during the year. A report is written up and captures all of your ideas and summarizes major themes,” he said. “If there’s things you see that are problematic or issues or concerns today, get them out there on the table tonight.”

He stressed that the local officials were there to listen. “Tonight, the mayor and the council are here to have big ears and small mouths,” Sumek said. “If they talk too much, just raise your hand, and I’ll tell them it’s time to listen.”

He pointed out that many ideas on the table this year came from last year’s summit. “Tonight is a test of whether those are valid or not,” Sumek said.

He said ground rules include the concept that everyone’s ideas are important.

“You’ve got flip charts by each one of your tables; everybody’s idea gets recorded,” Sumek said. “Even if it’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever heard, write it down. After there’s a list, we’re going to ask you to vote around the table. If you have 10 things, I’ll say give me the top five that your group can agree on by a majority vote as the most important.”

He also stressed that group members must respect each other. “Somebody may have a very contrasting view, different than yours, and you may think it’s crazy. Just push it aside, but don’t get into disagreeing with them,” Sumek said. “Understand that whatever their idea, it might have merit.”

Sumek said the overall vision has not changed from the previous year’s summit, which is for the village to be a premier residential community with a hometown feeling, the choice for families, and one that’s beautiful, safe, convenient and enjoyable.

“The vision is where you want to see this community in 15 years,” he said. “If you look out, 15 years is 2029, but 2029 is as far in the future as 1999 is behind us. If you start thinking about it, that isn’t that far back. To me, the vision is like you’re taking Royal Palm Beach on a trip to the future.”

Sumek said the village also has a list of five-year goals, which were looked at again this year, and include having a financially sound and responsive village with community-based services and facilities, a more livable community from curb appeal to convenience, and an abundance of leisure choices and options.

“Those were the goals that were discussed this year,” he said. “That’s five years out, but if you look at five years, 2019, that isn’t that far at all, because by the time you start things and go through the process, it may take two or three years before you get the design and funding, and then before it actually comes out of the ground, it may be three, four or five years.”

Sumek said the goal of the five-year plan is to provide a map and what the milestones are to get there.

The consultant noted that there was also a one-year agenda of specific items that need to be addressed.

“With those, we actually put together action outlines,” he said, explaining that staff had made the commitment to reach completion on specific dates. “It is monitored every year, and adjustments are made.”

Sumek said the village is trying to assess the value of services it provides.

Sumek added that there were several things he planned to do that are different than last year, including asking participants what their sources of information are.

“One of the communities that I work with did a survey of its citizens, and in this survey, the company asked a question, ‘Where do you get your information?’” he said. “During 2013, there was a drastic shift.”

The No. 1 source of information listed was social media, especially Facebook, he said, explaining that 43 percent of the respondents listed social media as their primary source of information.

Sumek added that media outlets are now incorporating social media into their news reports. “There is a drastic flip about how people are getting their information,” he said.

He pointed out that in some recent elections, previously unknown candidates got elected primarily through social media. “Individuals who were there less than four months got elected and they never put any large sums out,” Sumek said. “How did they get elected? It was through Facebook and social media.”

Information about the Royal Palm Beach Strategic Plan can be found on the village’s web site at www.royalpalmbeach.com. Go to the yellow bar on the left side of the home page and click on “Royal Palm Beach Strategic Plan.”


ABOVE: About 40 residents attended the Citizen Summit on Tuesday at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center.