About 70 area residents gathered at the Winfield Community Center at Baden Square in Winfield Monday night to define prosperity, what is being done right to encourage prosperity and what is standing in the way of that prosperity in their communities.
Among those present, there was a confluence of opinion in each of those categories. The crowd was answering the call of Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, who is conducting a 12-city listening tour of rural Kansas communities to find out what residents think the state government can do to help the rural areas of the state thrive.
Rogers, with Sarah Werner, CEO of the Winfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kerri Falletti, director of Cowley First, had spent the day touring Cowley County cities and visiting with people in different businesses and industries.
The people attending the meeting came from communities as least as far west as Wellington and as far east as Independence. Several legislators, both current and former, were on hand.
Rogers introduced the exercise that took up most of the meeting, then people were divided into groups according to colored dots on their name tags.
Each group was led by someone from among the tour organizers.
The groups were asked to list their responses to the three questions on prosperity, what’s good about area and what stands in the way. They were also asked to choose the most important elements in each category.
Rogers said his Office of Rural Prosperity will collect the answers and determine what can be done to facilitate changes needed to improve rural living.
One woman, Tabatha Rosproy, lead teacher at Cumbernauld Little Vikings, said for her prosperity meant that every single person has to prosper.
Several of the elements that contribute to the area’s prosperity include: a community united in its willingness to volunteer; good public schools; good infrastructure (roads that get you where you want to go quickly); enlightened forefathers in Winfield who developed city-owned utilities; two colleges that contribute to the area’s culture as well as education; access to quality health care, especially in Winfield; vibrant downtown areas; a strong industrial base.
What could be done better include: Medicaid expansion so more people have access to healthcare; better responses from politicians to the people’s needs and requests; better and more affordable housing; dealing with the drug problem; affordable daycare; getting rid of sales tax on food; early childhood education for everyone; better pay, a real living wage; cleaning up blighted city neighborhoods; better access to broadband internet.
The attendees were asked to rate what they thought was the most important thing that needed to be addressed and they agreed on better responses from Topeka and the political parties to their needs.
The lieutenant governor’s office will send out reports of what they found on the tours when they are completed.
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