Workshop #17
Dakota City
February 4-5, 2010

The seventeenth Nebraska Sustainability Leadership Workshop convened a broad spectrum of area communities, large—population, 11,925—and small—population, 160—some intensely interrelated and others more distantly located and distinct. Large and small, leaders were able to connect on a variety of issues common to those facing Nebraskans across the state.

Tensions between tradition and innovation were attributed as stunting community preparedness for change and resiliency. Sally Reinert, President of Keep Northeast Nebraska Beautiful, observed that many area residents fear changes to their community: “A lot of energy is devoted to keeping things from changing rather than managing change. All of the communities in Dakota County have their own flavor. These communities are shrinking, however, and yet people want to keep doing what they have been doing and fit reality to their vision of what has been.”

Nicki Peters, a representative of Cuming County Public Power District agreed, further commenting, “Change is constant in our lives and we have to be prepared to meet it.”

Leaders attending the workshop represented overlapping and contiguous jurisdictions, as with those from South Sioux City, Dakota City, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners, the South Sioux City Public Schools District and the Dakota, Dixon, and Thurston County Extension Office, as well as community representatives from further afield, including Concord, Ponca, Randolph, Wayne and Westpoint. This mixture of state, county and city government, as well as representatives from the private sector, with two engineers representing the building community, enabled rich and multi-perspective dialogue—the perfect setting for a workshop dedicated to the interrelatedness of seemingly disparate community issues.

Cecil Steward, President and CEO of the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities, recommended ten actions to the group:

•    Establish regional and voluntary coordinated planning
•    Conduct regular communications among and between area jurisdictions
•    Establish sustainability indicators for the region
•    Identify and publicize examples of best practices
•    Establish a consensus of the region’s most fragile natural, social and historic environments
•    Define policies that clarify or limit acreage development
•    Coordinate reviews of water-related policies to ensure equitable access to clean water for human, agricultural, industrial and wildlife uses
•    Encourage energy conservation
•    Encourage healthy lifestyles through compact walkable communities
•    Create food-based rural/urban coalitions

Co-facilitator Jay Leighter, faculty at Creighton University specializing in civic deliberation, Jim Crandall, Associate Director of the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, Ken Curry, Energy Efficiency Specialist with Nebraska Public Power District and Chris McGowan of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce touched upon key aspects of the above recommendations through their individual presentations.

Participants observed a continuing trend of economies of scale in their region with negative consequences, ranging from the reduction of family farms in the region and the growing talk of school district consolidation. McGowan picked up on this thread by reinforcing the need for a regional approach to economic development and talk of the likelihood that some counties will need to combine services if they are to continue to meet their residents’ needs in the future. Communities need to continue to band together if they wish to compete, McGowan stated.

Leighter expanded on the process of collaboration with a brief discussion on civic deliberation. “All of our communities are going somewhere," Leighter said. “The question is how do we impact that path?

“It is not effective to simply announce a decision after it has already been made,” Leighter continued. “We need to improve community commitment to your issues.” This requires engaging people in a community decision-making process not only to establish trust, but to achieve greater understanding about an issue and its complexity. “This gets people out of the binary feeling of ‘if you’re not with me, you’re against me’.”

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Resources from the
Dakota City Workshop

Most of the workshop materials can be downloaded from our Resources and Documents pages. Below are some materials from the consultants and speakers at the Dakota City workshop, as well as some resources from consultants who were not there.

Dakota City participants identified storm water management as a topic of interest. While we did not have an expert at the workshop to address the issue, we do have Water Resources Specialist and Storm Water Management expert Rocky Keehn available to those who would like to communicate with him. You can reach him via e-mail at, or by phone at 402-659-3531.

Jim Crandall's PowerPoint presentation on Community Food Systems can be downloaded by clicking here >. You can reach Jim at the UNL Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, phone 308-995-3889, or visit the website at

Nebraska Public Power District's Energy Efficiency Manager Ken Curry has provided his PowerPoint presentation, All Roads Lead to Energy Efficiency. Download it here >. You can reach Ken by phone at 402-563-5366, or by e-mail at

NPPD is available to train wholesale customers in Energy Auditing, Curry said. In addition, Energy Auditor training classes are available at Kansas Building Systems Institute (KBSI) in Manhattan, KS. And check periodically with Metropolitan Community College in Omaha for training related to home energy audits as well as a range of other “Green Living” topics.

Workshop speaker Chris McGowan of The Siouxland Initiative can be reached by phone at 800-228-7903 or by e-mail.

Finally, we are providing a link for Consensus Building Resources.

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