RPB Citizen Summit Attracts Residents Offering Ideas

Councilwoman Selena Samios looks on as residents give input at one of the Citizen Summit tables Monday at the Cultural Center.

It was a full room at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center on Monday, May 20 for the village’s annual Citizen Summit, where residents were invited to brainstorm ideas to enhance the future of the community.

Consultant Lyle Sumek directed the evening’s activities, while village officials, both elected and staff, participated with the residents.

Each round table was set up with an easel of paper. Eight citizens circled around the table with a staff member ready to record the comments. The elected council members moved throughout the room. There were three timed rounds with two questions each.

Sumek is a consultant for many municipalities. His company, Lyle Sumek Associates, specializes in team building, strategic planning and goal setting for local governments, developing more effective governing bodies and governance processes, often assisting local governments as they work with their residents.

Sumek explained the village’s strategic planning process.

“It is an ongoing process. Every year and every month, they are evaluating and adjusting what they are working on with a focus on long-term goals and directions,” he said.

Sumek started by asking the participants to make a plea for what they wanted to see improved in the community. He gave some background information on the method of the strategic planning.

“If you are here for the first time, one of the things we do in Royal Palm Beach is that the council has a strategic planning session that lasts about a week,” he said. “It is a session that includes not only the council members, but all of the members of the management and leadership team, where we sit down and figure out how we did last year and what do we need to do in the coming year.”

Monday’s Citizen Summit was a way for residents to take part in the process.

“Tonight, we are going to share with you the work that we did this year in strategic planning, and we want your input,” Sumek said. “We have an informed opportunity for our citizens to give feedback.”

There were five basic rules: everyone’s ideas and comments are important; treat everyone with respect even if you disagree with their comment; record everyone’s ideas on the large sheets of paper; star the most important for the table as determined by the majority; and relax, enjoy yourself and make new friends.

The first question asked, “During the last year, 2018-19, what has the village government done to enhance the livability of Royal Palm Beach?” Staff wrote the comments on the paper as the citizens spoke up. Each table had small differences in their response, but overall, the group made similar comments. For example, participants were impressed by the renovated Cultural Center, road reconditioning, lights on Okeechobee Blvd., park improvements, working toward a safer community and special events such as the seafood festival.

The next question asked, “What are new services, facilities or programs that the village government should consider to enhance livability in Royal Palm Beach?” The lists included things like senior mobility and transportation; accessibility of shared rides like cabs, Uber and Lyft; and investing in family support programs, mass transit, afterschool programs and more police presence.

Later in the evening, residents were asked, “During the next two years, 2020-22, does the Village of Royal Palm Beach need to consider new ideas or projects?” The citizens suggested trial space for businesses, tax cuts for businesses, more concerts and events, golf carts, neighborhood beautification, and better transport from parking to various venues in Commons Park.

Village Manager Ray Liggins was pleased with the Citizen Summit.

“We start this process in January, where [Sumek] has the department heads fill out their questionnaires. He then meets with the council and gets their input,” Liggins told the Town-Crier. “Then we meet one week. Three days, we go over all of the suggestions, and the council prioritizes everything. It results in a public strategic planning. It gives us our work routine for the year.”

What comes out of Monday’s meeting will be a book of ideas from the Citizen Summit.

“What I do is give that [book] to the council and staff before they provide Lyle anything,” Liggins said. “The strategic planning calendar is an extensive calendar. We want to get the draft plan done so that when we prepare our budget for the next year, which is presented to council in July, we have the information from the council and staff.”

The process tends to run from April until July. “Everything will be wrapped up before our budget workshop in July,” Liggins said.

The staff has already made recommendations, and at Monday’s meeting, the residents had their time to input their voices to help create the community they want to see.