By Carla Branch and James Cullum
On Saturday, the Alexandria City Council met for three hours to review the City’s 2004 strategic plan. They refined the strategic goals and established a process for setting strategic objectives and initiatives for each of those goals.
Council members Paul Smedberg and Del Pepper worked with Assistant City Manager Tom Gates to plan the retreat. “We began the strategic planning process in 2003 and it took us a year to finally adopt our final plan,” Pepper said. “At that time, we believed that the strategic plan would serve the city well for 15 years. It is still a good plan. Now, we just need to take it to the next level.”
Smedberg defined that next level. “Our strategic mission and vision are fine. We took a look at the goals and have made some suggested changes. We can combine some goals and we are going to add a goal,” he said. “Once we have agreed on the goals, members of Council will work with staff and members of the community to develop strategic objectives and initiatives for each goal.
“We have assigned two members of Council to work on each goal. Those assignments weren’t arbitrary; each member of Council expressed their interest and we tried to place them where there interest is as much as possible,” Smedberg said.
The new goals, designated Council members and staff, and the City Boards and Commissions on which the goals will have an impact are:
“¢ Goal 1: There is Quality Development and Redevelopment, Support for Local Businesses and a Strong, Diverse and Growing Local Economy. Council Members: Paul Smedberg and Kerry Donley
“¢ Goal 2: The City Respects, Protects and Enhances the Health of its Citizens and the Quality of its Natural Environment. Council Members: Del Pepper and Rob Krupicka
“¢ Goal 3: There is an Integrated, Multimodal Transportation System that Efficiently and Effectively Gets People from Point “A” to Point “B”. Council Members: Bill Euille and Paul Smedberg
“¢ Goal 4: Alexandria is a Community with Public Schools Amongst Northern Virginia’s Best and Where Our Recreational Programs Provide Youth the Opportunity to Succeed. Council Members: Rob Krupicka and Alicia Hughes
“¢ Goal 5: The City Government is Financially Sustainable, Efficient, Community Oriented and Values its Employees. Council Members: Bill Euille and Frank Fannon
“¢ Goal 6: The City Protects the Safety and Security of its Residents, Businesses and Visitors. Council Members: Kerry Donley and Frank Fannon
“¢ Goal 7: Alexandria Is a Caring Community That is Affordable and Diverse With a Rich History and Culture. Council Members: Del Pepper and Alicia Hughes
On goal #4: “We really should include all of our schools, not just our public schools,” said Mayor Bill Euille. “Also, it is important to remember that although we provide the funding for the public schools, we do not govern them.”
Councilman Rob Krupicka agreed. “That is a very good point. We need to reach out to all of the City’s school children because whether they attend our public schools or not, they participate in many other city activities,” he said.
All agreed that goal #7 may need tweaking. “This is our newest goal and the Council members assigned to work on this goal may need to refine it,” Smedberg said.
Defining Objectives and Initiatives
Gates provided a tutorial on developing strategic objectives and initiatives. “Objectives and initiatives must be sustainable, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound, representative of best practices and specific, so as to be actionable,” he said.
Gates also said that, “there should be a limit of three objectives for each goal and five to seven initiatives under each of those objectives.
“There should also be a time period by which initiatives will be accomplished. I would suggest three to five years,” Gates said.
Each initiative should be measurable. “That means it is possible to assess progress positively or negatively,” Gates said.
“The strategic planning effort should include an implementation strategy for aligning City work efforts with policy direction and for the regular reporting of progress towards goals and objectives,” Gates said. “Some City departments already have business plans that are tied to strategic goals. These objectives and initiatives will give staff further guidance from Council and help them establish business plans that include these initiatives.”
Council members will coordinate with designated staff members to schedule meetings around each goal. The City’s web site has a section for strategic planning that allows members of the public to post comments about the process. Each goal group will determine how they are going to solicit public input.
“There are several methods that may be appropriate at different times for different groups,” Gates said.
These include: public forums; roundtable discussions; focus groups and designated representatives.
Council members are expected to recommend objectives and initiatives for their goal areas in about 15 weeks. “This will allow you to complete the process in time to include these objectives and initiatives in your budget deliberations for fiscal year 2011,” Gates said.
Gates warned that, “establishing measurements may take longer. We are estimating between 18 and 24 months because, in many instances, we do not have data collection systems in place to do so.”
Vice Mayor Kerry Donley expressed concern. “That’s a really long time to develop a measurement for these initiatives. I’m not sure the citizens of Alexandria or, for that matter, the politicians will have that much patience. We need to see if we can’t shorten that time,” he said.