A Strategic Priorities Plan was recently endorsed by Council. I wrote previously about the process we went through to get here, this is the meat in the middle. The Plan sets out the five priority areas for our work in the next few years. One of the principles we took into Strategic Planning was a recognition that these kinds of plans need to be aspirational and values-based, not necessarily prescriptive. The last 4 years taught us that even the best laid plans can be shifted by events, and we need to be ready to pivot when events conspire. A clear understanding of our common goals and the values that guide us toward them helps us with that pivot.
The core of the plan is five priority areas, four fairly straight-forward, one more abstract. In each of these, we have objectives and some example outcomes.
Homes and Housing Options. Our Community has been a leader in full-spectrum housing policy, from shelter and supportive housing through purpose-built rental and family-friendly transit oriented development. Still, secure and affordable housing is the #1 regional priority, and we have work to do. Our focus this term will be on implementing the Homelessness Action Strategy, and better targeting our affordable housing efforts to align with senior government funding opportunities. We will continue to prioritize market housing development on and near Transit, and will update our infill density program to bring more diversity of housing in every neighbourhood. Finally, facing the labour crunch, we are going to implement a simplified and streamlined approvals process to get more built sooner.
Safe Movement of People The ways people move around our region are changing, as people want more choice and equity in how we allocate transportation space and we are starting to make the shift necessary for us to meet our Climate Action goals. To reflect this, we are emphasizing increased safety for all modes, and measuring transportation success by our ability to move people more than traditional transportation models related to moving specific types of devices. Along with generational investments in our Active Transportation Network (again, to align with senior government funding opportunities), we are going to bring a new focus on the safety and comfort of our transportation realm – we don’t want choice constrained by lack of safety. This will be inter-departmental and culture-shifting, whether we brand it “VisionZero” or not.
People-centred Economy Continuing the trend of centering the people we serve in our work, we are framing our Economic Development focus around people. This means supporting vibrant retail areas that are focused on local needs. This means assuring our jobs-creating spaces (Commercial/ Industrial) are able to support local jobs. This also means assuring the economic benefits of our strong Arts and Culture sector are shared here in the community. This is an area where relationships and partnerships will be key to our success.
Assets and Infrastructure This doesn’t get everyone excited, but the City has a 5-year capital plan I can only describe as aggressive, which means we are investing in core infrastructure like never before. Asset Management is a the practice of assuring you understand your long-term asset needs and the lifecycle of existing and new assets, so that you can properly plan the finances needed to keep your assets in good repair, and renew them when needed. We are advancing a structured Asset Management strategy in the City, department by department, and though this will be better positioned both to score senior government grants to support infrastructure growth, and to set priorities when the inevitable call for more stuff but less spending arrives.
Community Belonging and Connecting This is the slightly less tangible priority area, but through our Strat Plan discussions, it was a theme we kept coming back to organically. What makes New West unique is the way residents and businesses feel connected to the community, to each other, in a way many other municipalities in the Lower Mainland don’t. We have a culture of connections, and Council wants to foster that. This means supporting the many community organizations that are bringing people together around, arts, around culture, around sport, or around an activated street.
These are the focus areas, but the way we do this work is as important as the work itself, so this Strategic Plan includes context statements that describe the organizations foundations we work upon, and the lenses through which we view our work. That can all sound a bit like Management Consultant Speak, but let me unpack it a bit using Climate Action as an example.
We are in an era where people expect their government to take action on Climate Change mitigation and adaptation. The existential aspect of this work is such that it impacts every department in the City. We cannot achieve our 2030 and 2050 GHG goals unless we engineer our public spaces differently. We cannot be resilient in the face of climate disruption unless our Emergency Services understand and adapt to the new threats. The buildings we approve today will be the affordable building stock in the zero-carbon future, we better assure they are built for that future. It goes on. Everything we do from this point forward must be viewed through a climate lens – are we doing this in a way that reduces GHG emissions? Is what we are building going to be appropriate in 20 years? Does this move us towards mitigation, or away from it?
Lenses like this will be applied to assure we are being true to our goals for Reconciliation, for Public Engagement, and for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (DEIAR). It is what our community expects, and it is the right way to approach this work.
Finally, all of this work will be done on the foundation of Organizational Effectiveness. This means supporting our professional staff to do their work, assuring they have the resources and tools they need to do it, from IT to HR to the building in which people work.
And that is the plan in a nutshell. It is meant to be aspirational and realistic, and it is flexible enough for us to shift emphasis as needs (and senior government supports) shift over the next 40ish months. We will be monitoring and measuring the success transparently so Council and staff can be kept accountable to deliver on it.
Now go enjoy your long weekend, and Tuesday we get back to work.