Marquette Master Plan allows for community members’ voices to be heard

NMU students underrepresented in Marquette local government


Fischer Genau/NW

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT – Marquette community members give their opinions on affordable housing and other issues included in the community master plan during open house in the NMU Northern Center.

Fischer Genau

The city of Marquette is updating its Community Master Plan, a document that establishes its long-term vision, based on input from community members. Last Wednesday, Feb. 15, an open house was held to discuss key issues, giving students from NMU and other community members a chance to have their voices heard and help decide the future of Marquette.

The Master Plan will eventually include several guiding principles that determine how the city handles issues like environmental protection, affordable housing and economic development. The meeting, held in the Northern Center, was designed to test principles that the city had created based on a survey sent out in January. 

Over 500 people attended, several students among them, to talk with city officials and write feedback in response to specific issues on sticky notes. Dennis Stachewicz, Marquette’s director of planning and community development, said that he appreciates student perspectives, especially because they often depend on services like public transportation that other citizens may not think about.

“They’re definitely part of the community, they’re part of the cultural fabric here and they do bring value to the process,” Stachewicz said.

Jane Fitkin, who graduated from NMU in December, was there to share her concerns about environmental protections and affordable housing. She said she was hoping for more dialogue between citizens and city officials, but plans on attending future Master Plan events to try to influence policy.

Although she recognized several NMU students that were there, Fitkin said that college students are underrepresented in local governance and encourages her friends to participate in issues like the drafting of a new master plan.

“I think trying to make these types of events more accessible is really important to NMU students,” Fitkin said.

26% of Marquette’s population is between 20 and 24 years old, but only 17% of survey respondents that helped determine the direction of the Master Plan are in that age bracket, according to a chart posted outside the meeting room. In contrast, 15% of Marquette’s population is between 60 and 74, yet that demographic accounted for 21% of survey respondents.

The city of Marquette sent a link to this survey to all NMU students, but Fitkin said they could do more to reach out to the younger demographic.

Marquette’s Mayor, Cody Mayer, was an NMU student himself in 2020 and said he hopes this new master plan can address issues such as housing, childcare, job creation and the protection of natural beauty.

“We’re going to continue to try to get as much community input as possible because ultimately that’s what really allows this plan to be effective,” Mayer said.

To stay up to date on opportunities to give feedback, NMU students and community members can visit the city of Marquette’s website and sign up for updates on the Community Master Plan.

Fitkin said she hopes other students will get more involved, attending city commission meetings or finding other ways to amplify student voices in local governance.

“I think that everyone’s voice should be heard, if they want it to be heard,” Fitkin said.