Oxford City Council renews priorities for 2022


City councilors and staff meet at the council retreat to develop the goals and values of the city for 2022, and ideas for the 2023 budget. Photo by Emily Scott

By Emily Scott

Oxford City Council voted April 5 to keep the same top three priorities for 2022 that it had in 2021: housing for everyone, climate sustainability and economic development. 

Council also adopted four broad visions and values, which each have its own priorities. The visions and values are sense of place, quality of life, stewardship and service excellence. 

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said it is important that the values are broad, so that city staff, boards and commissions can align their work with a value. This helps them feel like their work is important to the community and to the city council.

“We spoke about a redraft of visions and values, because we, as department staff, realized that some of the things we are working on didn’t really have a place to live as a goal,” Greene said. “We wanted to share our progress, what we were working on, but needed a reporting structure.” 

She said this includes projects like getting an Amtrak station in Oxford and the Oxford Area Trail System, which remain important goals for the city. 

This graphic shows what citizens of Oxford wish could be improved in the community. This is based on public input for Oxford Tomorrow. Graphic provided by the City of Oxford

The goals and visions that were adopted by council April 5 were discussed at its March 11 yearly retreat with city staff. The city department heads collaborated to create measurable goals before the retreat, then council added some. These goals will be reported quarterly. 

A couple members of the public spoke at the city council meeting to express that they wish the public would have been consulted in the goal planning process. 

“The retreat was a little later this year due to COVID, so normally, we would do a little bit more community input and council input before developing the goals,” Greene said. 

City Councilor Chantel Raghu echoed this. “I can guarantee that every single one of these ideas…came from the public in one way or another,” she said. 

The councilors decided to keep the same three focuses as in 2021, because they wanted to hear more public input from the comprehensive plan, which is currently in development. According to Greene, the comprehensive plan will be finalized by Oct. 4. 

At the 2022 City Council retreat, councilors and city staff used sticky notes to brainstorm what they think the goals for the city should be in the next couple of years. Photo by Emily Scott

At the retreat, city councilors and staff used sticky notes and poster boards to begin to develop the goals that would go within the four established values. Some became priorities for 2022, while others will be researched and possibly built into the 2023 budget this summer. 

Councilors Raghu and Jason Bracken were especially concerned with the lack of childcare in Oxford, which is a quality of life issue. This did not make the list of priorities for 2022, but they said they often discuss this problem with constituents. 

Other goals prominently discussed at the retreat were workforce development programs, ensuring a balanced budget, building an Amtrak station, developing a business incubator and correcting city staffing problems, especially within the police and fire departments. 

The next public input session for the Oxford Tomorrow comprehensive planning committee will be April 18 at the Oxford Bible Fellowship, 800 Maple St. Those who cannot attend this session in person will be able to participate virtually.