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:

  • targeted job growth in specified high tech industries; job training; education reform; incentives to attract business;
Goal 2: Increase housing units and promote homeownership:
  • comprehensive housing plan; reuse abandoned/blighted properties; new units from DC-owned properties; family assistance to help families remain in affordable housing;
Goal 3: Focus economic development on targeted areas:
  • revitalize, upgrade neighborhood commercial centers; support small businesses; relocate one million square feet of local, fed, private office space to needy areas;
  • focus on targeted neighborhoods, including:
    • East of the River
    • Anacostia
    • Poplar Point
    • Navy Yard/SE Federal Center
    • St. Elizabeth's
    • New York Ave
    • Downtown
    • NOMA
    • Georgia Ave/LeDroit Park
    • McMillan Reservoir
    • H Street
    • Old Convention Center
    • Galludet
    • Ivy/Trinidad
  • and the metro stops at:
    • Minnesota/Benning
    • Columbia Heights
    • Georgia Ave/Petworth
    • Anacostia
2. Making Government Work

Goal 1: Improve service delivery for citizens:

  • customer service training; performance evaluations; citizen request racking system; improved communications with citizens
Goal 2: Redesign internal services within DC Government:
  • look and operation of gov't facilities; timeliness, efficiency of gov't procurement; financial planning support to agencies; qualified, motivated workforce
3. Building and Sustaining Healthy Neighborhoods

Goal 1: Reduce crime and increase safety:

  • high visibility police presence; expanded "power shift"; police/community partnerships;
Goal 2: Reduce disorder and improve neighborhood appearance:
  • nuisance/abandoned properties clean-up; housing code compliance; clean city services;
Goal 3: Increase affordable housing:
  • adopt-a-house initiative; financing housing renovation; new properties with private sector;
Goal 4: Improve neighborhood health and welfare:
  • improved education, employment, drug treatment;
Goal 5: Increase community participation in welfare and local civic life:
  • active partnerships with police, neighborhood initiatives;
4. Strengthening Families

Goal 1: Increase employment levels

  • neighborhood literacy services; local job sites; internships; tech centers for disabled;
Goal 2: Ensure high-quality, accessible, affordable health care:
  • transport for pregnant women/kids; health info publicizing; expanded health insurance coverage;
Goal 3: Develop life-long learning opportunities:
  • online data base, use of technology; local role models/celebrities to promote education;
Goal 4: Enhance caregiver support
  • training institute; home-aide training; menu of available services;
Goal 5: Improve environmental safety:
  • lead poisoning; pesticide violatons; Anacostia River restoration; housing inspections;
Goal 6: Improve conditions for inmates, ex-offenders and their families
  • life-skills and vocational training; mental health sevices;
5. Investing in Children and Youth

Goal 1: Prepare children to learn:

  • omnibus child health/safety bill; community adult learning centers; subsidies for child development centers; early assessment of special ed needs;
Goal 2: Ensure that childen succeed in school:
  • community-based out-of-school programs, access to recreation centers, libraries;
Goal 3: Provide opportunities for children to become successful young adults:
  • employment and training info; internships; entrepreneurial opportunities;
Goal 4: Assure children's health:
  • health screenings, immunizations, child abuse/neglect actions;
Goal 5: Reduce youth-on-youth crime in school settings:
  • roving leaders programs; programs for at-risk kids;
6. Unity of Purpose and Democracy

Goal 1: Develop City-wide strategic plan:

  • implement neighborhood action initiative;
Goal 2: Align government agencies with citizen priorities:
  • involve employees in agency strategic plans; labor-management partnership councils in each agency; additional strategies for workforce inputs;
Goal 3: Create broad opportunities for civic input:
  • public scorecard; public access to gov't info; university consortium task force for students/faculty to participate in gov't operations;
Goal 4: Promote cooperation with regional, federal and private organizations:
  • foster partnerships to promote mutual interests and coordinate resources through:
    • public/private development office to strengthen mutual cooperation and private investment in DC's strategic priorities;
    • partnerships with elected leadership in neighboring counties;
    • partner with federal agencies on local initiatives;
Goal 5: Establish true self-government:
  • major effort to gain voting rights; implement wage-tax on non-residents and tax-exempt employees;bring receiverships back to DC gov't;
NARPAC Commentary: Necessary, But Not Sufficient

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)
1999 East of the River Development Initiative (1,3)
1999 Summary Report of Neighborhood and Citywide Focus Groups on the Out of School Needs of the District's Chldren and Youth (4,5)
1999 DC Scorecard/Background Report (2)
1999 Final Transition Reports: Human Services (2,4,5); Information Technology(2); Infrastructure (2,3); Education (2); Competitive Government (2); Operations (2); Special Constituents (2); Planning and Development (1,2,3)
1998 DC Strategic Economic Plan (1,2,3)
1998 7th Street/Georgia Ave Market Study and implementation Plan (1,3)
1998 Extending the Legacy NCPC 21st Century (1,3,6)
1998 Howard University-LeDroit Park Revitalization Initiative (1,3)
1998 4th Columbia Heights Strategic Planning Conference Report (1,3,4,5)
1998 Joint Application for 2nd Round Designation for an Urban Empowerment Zone (1)
1998 FY2000 Action Plan DC DHCD Draft Consolidated Plan (1,3)
1998 DC Operation Weed and Seed Plan (3)
1998 Mayor's Committee on Reducing Teenage Pregnancy, and Out of Wedlock Births (4,5)
1997 DC Residents Study-Research Findings of a Citywide Survey (2,5)
1997 Building a Neighborhood-Based Child Protection and Family Support System (4,5)
1997 Caring for Children: A Plan to Transform Child and Family Services (4,5)

This item was archived in July, 2002

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