Ishpeming listening session shows optimism moving forward

An Ishpeming resident writes down what her perception of city leadership is. At Saturday’s listening session, city officials went over the results from their citywide survey. Attendees also discussed concerns of their own and offered solutions to problems discussed at the listening session. (Journal photo by Dreyma Beronja)

ISHPEMING — A citywide survey showed mixed results and optimism moving forward in the city of Ishpeming.

Over the weekend, a dozen residents and businesses sat with city officials to go over the citywide survey that began in July by the city and Siren, a public relations and communications services firm. The survey’s purpose was to gather feedback from residents and businesses for the city to better understand problems that exist.

The survey had 434 responses, 420 being from residents.

Citywide survey results

Questions residents and businesses answered included attractiveness of the city, improvements they would like to see in the city, and challenges. The listening session was also a chance for residents to voice concerns to city officials who were in attendance.

City officials included Mayor Jason Chapman, City Manager Craig Cugini and councilor Lindsay Bean. Siren CEO Adela Piper was also in attendance and led the session.

One of the survey questions asked residents and businesses what appeals to them about the city. The top three answers were the small-town atmosphere, trail systems and sense of community.

One response said what appeals to them about the city is “business and residents that take pride in our town.”

“Safe place to raise a family. Larger homes for half the cost of Marquette,” another response said. “Easy drive to Marquette or Negaunee for work and play.”

But on the flip side, several residents and businesses said nothing about the city is appealing.

“My only option,” one response said. “Rent is insane everywhere. No stores nearby besides groceries or gas station and there are almost zero activities nearby besides hikes or bars.”

The survey also asked residents and businesses what could be improved about the city. The top three answers were dining options, infrastructure and shopping options.

Some responses called for improved safety, such as additional consequences for drug deals in the city and to “tear down houses which have had meth busts.”

Others with small children said they’d like to see continued growth with outdoor recreation options.

“Growing our downtown is important to us, so that we can feel like this community is for us for the long run,” one resident said. “Ishpeming folks seem deep-rooted, which is awesome, but definitely want to feel a sense of community even as an outsider who has moved here. I want to love Ishpeming, I’m committed to it, and want to serve the town so it can serve my growing family.”

The city’s “uniqueness” was also discussed in the survey. Some positive unique features of the city included history, small-town feel and the “beautiful old buildings.”

“Ishpeming has an underlying sense of pride that allows it to combat the drug, blight and other negative issues that affect the city. People still see Ishpeming both for what it once was and for what it could be in the future,” one survey response said. “It’s a blue-collar place that appreciates quality. It’s a city that needs and desires growth but not at the expense of its history and identity. It’s a place aware of its history, working on its present and optimistic about its future all at the same time.”

But others viewed the “unique” features as areas of concern.

“We have the worst roads, the most slumlords (and) the most crime,” one response said. “Our potholes could probably make the Guinness Book of World Records.”

“Ishpeming used to be a nice small town. It’s turned into a dump, these slumlords came and destroyed this city and you all let them,” another response said. “The streets are horrible, you don’t clean the streets anymore, you don’t cut the grass.”

The biggest challenges residents and businesses said they were facing in the city were the cost of living, infrastructure and city services.

Discussions moving forward

After going over the survey results, further discussions opened up on problems residents and businesses believe the city is facing and offered solutions of their own, taking a more optimistic approach to the situation.

One resident asked how the city is creating economic development. Some residents mentioned social districts like in Negaunee and Marquette and also night markets to bring more business in.

Others suggested helping revitalize the downtown area.

One problem discussed was students going to other schools instead of Ishpeming Public Schools. One solution was promoting students to go to Ishpeming Public Schools through partnerships.

“We should be promoting as a community and as a city, you know, send your kids to Ishpeming Public Schools if you’re living in Ishpeming,” Chapman said. “That’s going to support them in so many different ways …. I mean, there’s so many great partnerships with the public schools. I think that needs to be highlighted as a community as a whole and even as a city.”

Partridge Creek Farm director of programs and partnerships May Tsupros suggested creating a promotional strategy around the career technical education programs.

“That (career technical education programs) is something very unique that Ishpeming is doing,” Tsupros said.

Although no future listening sessions have been planned, Cugini said residents and businesses should watch for a notice in the future.

Residents and businesses are invited to the state of the city meeting tonight at 6 at the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Center. For more information, visit ishpemingcity.org.


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