DRAFT CITY-WIDE STRATEGIC PLAN
On November 18, 1999, Mayor Williams unveiled his first draft of a city-wide strategic plan, in preparation for a weekend "citizen summit" at which 2-3000 DC residents were expected to provide their comments on its content, and priorities for their own neighborhoods. The mayor has promised to reflect their judgments in his 2001 budget.
This "neighborhood action" is, according to the handout, "designed to give voice to our shared vision for the city and to empower citizens to improve their communities." As a vehicle for stimulating community interests in community improvements, the draft plan seems to represent a reasonable collection of proposed actions from a variety of former reports--including the mayor's extensive set of transition reports (see references below). As a shared vision for the city, it seems well short of the mark--as discussed in the NARPAC commentary at the end. The outline, compressed below, summarizes each of the 26 "sub-goals" within the 6 major goals covered by the plan:
1. Economic Development
Goal 1: Increase employment opportunities for DC residents:
Goal 1: Improve service delivery for citizens:
Goal 1: Reduce crime and increase safety:
Goal 1: Increase employment levels
Goal 1: Prepare children to learn:
Goal 1: Develop City-wide strategic plan:
NARPAC finds this "city-wide strategic plan" to be well short of a full strategy for-- or vision of--the future of America's national capital city. It appears to be primarily an operational plan for upgrading the less advantaged residential parts of the central city, with little or no regard for the larger, longer-range issues with multi-year lead times and major implications. It offers virtually nothing to attract successful individuals, successful families, or successful businesses: 23 of the 26 goals address efforts to attain what amount to American community norms.
There is virtually nothing in this plan that shouldn't be done to make the city a better place for its average citizen-resident: the listed goals are all necessary. The limitation is that many of the things needed to make this an outstanding, unique, national asset are not included, and hence, as a visionary city-wide strategic plan, it is surely not sufficient.
NARPAC sees this as a go-it-alone (with more federal assistance) plan that will lead at best to a just-about-average, middle-sized American inner city with more than its share of disadvantaged. The greatest risk is that much needed additional efforts towards excellence will be rejected as "not part of the strategic plan", and therefore off the table for the next three years. NARPAC realizes that in this city, with its continued hypersensitivity to criticism and paranoid suspicions of racist undertones, some things have to be said in soothing generalities. But what may be accepted as "code words" for action by some, will be interpreted as promises of no action by others.
At the risk of appearing overly ambitious for our national capital city,, NARPAC notes that the plan is incomplete without clear and unambiguous intentions in the the following fourteen areas (which are well beyond the focus of 120-odd separate neighborhoods):
o to become the exemplary central city in our national capital metro area--and not just become "about as good as Detroit;
o to increase its population of fully voluntary (not artificially induced) net taxpaying residents and businesses while reducing its population of individuals and organizations that are net tax consumers;
o to more clearly delineate what kinds of people and businesses it wishes to attract to this unique city, and set about the development of those world-class city- and region-wide facilities that would draw them (sports stadiums?; music/arts centers?; technology, communications, learning and health centers?; national and international tourist and internship centers?; student or retirement centers?; etc.)
o to enhance regional operational cooperation with DC's neighboring jurisdictions-- way beyond the stated goal of "establishing partnerships with elected leadership in neighboring counties";
o to reduce the costs of government in a city of 500,000 that has a local government workforce big enough for a city closer to one million--in part because of its unusually high population below the poverty line;
o to rebuild its basic municipal functions: a public school system (including its special ed system), police force, and general health system that have not yet lost their labels (applied by their own bosses) of being largely dysfunctional, and to coordinate these functions that depend on each other;
o to reduce its welfare rolls (and homeless) very substantially;
o to rid itself of the several remaining non-municipal government functions-- including its air national guard squadron!
o to work to achieve poverty-sharing with its suburbs, particularly with respect to affordable housing availability throughout the region--nearer the available jobs;
o to develop and implement a robust capital investment program for all elements of the city's essential infrastructure--from roads and schools, to fire engines and trees. o to generate a true strategic plan for long-term upgrading of its key transportation systems, including extension and upgrading of its world-class metrorail system; major "gateway" arterial roads, including their essential "intermodal" parking facilities; and with particular emphasis on the long-neglected third of this city "South of the Freeway" or "East of the (Anacostia) River" (hardly a "neighborhood");
o to undertake a major land-use review of major city, federal, and non-profit properties which are currently (regardless of ownership) virtually non-productive to the revenue--and character--base of the city;
o to establish clear objectives for providing, directly or indirectly, the city's higher education needs in concert with the extraordinary institutions available in the region;
o to replace its apparently failed ANC system (notably ignored in this "neighborhood Action Summit") with a functional grassroots system of local representation.
The draft strategic plan thoughtfully includes a series of available studies and plans conducted over the past few years which contribute to the recommendations presented. It is noteworthy for its inclusions--and its exclusions:
1999 DC Comprehensive Plan (1,3,4,5,6)