What makes our community a Great Place?

I need your help. It’ll only take a few minutes of your time. 

I need you to fill out this survey: bit.ly/burlingtongreatplace

I know. You’re thinking, “Ugh, not another online survey!” But I promise this one doesn’t just stoke some CEO’s ego or steal your personal information. Nor does it offer a chance to win an iPad, either. So, sorry about that. It’s only 10 questions, and half of those are demographic in nature, so you don’t even have to think about those answers. So really, there’s only like three questions that require much thought. And by the time you reach the end of this article, you’ll already have those thoughts forming. Or so I hope. 

This is your chance to have a say in our community’s future. This is your chance to participate in something big, from the comfort of wherever you currently sit. 

The purpose of this survey is to identify what you think makes Burlington a “Great Place” to live. In addition, it will help create a vision and set of goals for future Burlington amenities and development. 

Vision. Goals. Driven by public input. Did you read my column last month where I wrote about Dubuque and how they’re totally kicking butt in terms of being awesome and growing their population and basically being a great place for their residents and visitors? 

This is how it begins. This is, I hope, the first baby step toward developing a comprehensive vision that puts us on the path to river town greatness. 

But it must start with you. 

Things like this cannot be top-down. In fact, I’m firmly of the opinion that most things can’t be top-down if you want any longevity to them. Leaders come and go. Administrations change. But when the will of the people is codified in long-term vision plans, cities like ours can stay on track over the long run. 

And that’s something else I firmly believe in: playing the long game. Sure, next year’s budget is important, and a 5-year capital improvement plan is necessary. But those things should be in service of the long-term plan or vision. They should move us incrementally toward where we want to be when our kids are joining the committees that will carry the next iteration of the vision forward. 

This survey is your first chance to weigh in on what that big vision will ultimately be. 

This survey is a product of the Great Places Committee, of which I’m a part. At the end of this process, city staff will be applying to the state for an Iowa Great Places designation which will make it eligible for grants and various funding to make Greater Burlington even greater. A program of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the Great Places program “seeks to cultivate the local character and authentic qualities of Iowa neighborhoods, districts, communities and regions. At its core, the program embraces ‘creative placemaking’, or the approach of building upon local creative and cultural assets to build more livable communities and vibrant public places.”

Hence the purpose of the survey. What is it that makes Burlington a “Great Place?” And not just what makes it great now. What will make it great in the future? Remember, we’re playing the long game here.

So here’s specifically what the survey asks: In the next 10 years (that’s the length of the Great Places designation, should we be awarded such), what words would you like to see used to describe Greater Burlington? And what projects would you like to see happen in Greater Burlington in the next decade? That’s the gist of the entire survey. Easy.

I say “Greater Burlington” because our community extends past the boundaries of the city itself and even if you don’t get mail to a 52601 zip code, your input here is just as valid. You probably work, shop, play, or visit people in the town proper. So your opinion is equally valid and I need you and your entire family to also fill out the survey. 

I’m almost done pitching this survey, I promise. But one more thing.

Personally, I want 1,000 responses to this survey. I don’t know if that’s even possible, and technically we only need 381 residents of Des Moines County to take it in order to be statistically 95% confident in the responses. But 1,000 would be better. Way better. 

So please take the survey. Have your friends and family take it. Send it to people you don’t even know. Share it on social media (you can share it from Downtown Burlington’s page). 

Last month I asked you where we’ll be as a community in 20 years. Do we just wait and see, or do we actively create that future ourselves? I choose the latter. I hope you do too.