Monday, September 12, 2005

Advice From the Best

Commissioners, how about some advice from the longest running elected Mayor in the country (especially when you think about becoming an elected mayor yourself)?

"Wisdom, civic pride, and unparalleled experience have helped Joe Riley turn Charleston, SC, into one of America's finest cities."

You cannot overstate the importance of strategic planning of a city. Just as no corporation could compete without a good strategic business plan, no city can begin to achieve its potential without a wise strategic plan that the leadership adheres to. Cities are the ultimate civic creations – they belong to citizens, it’s public realm. It influences the experiences of everyone who touches it every moment of every day.

(Editor’s note: cities are the public realm, they belong to the citizens, if you want to build here, do it our way. And yes, you must follow a wise strategic plan.)

I think what’s happened – and I’m not speaking about L.A. or any city; I’m speaking about America – is we developed rapidly in the 20th century in metropolitan areas, and the notion of civic planning was lost. It was private rather than civic planning, because a landowner would buy a tract of land and then say, "Well, let’s develop it this way." Well, the ownership of land is sacrosanct and the ability to profit from wise ownership and development of land is very important, but if it is to be a permanent part of the ultimate civic gesture, a city, then it should be pursuant to a civic vision, a community vision.

(Editor’s note: not private planning, private vision but civic planning, civic vision community vision!)

It has to be a vision. And it’s not a vision imposed. A good plan is a plan that represents the collective vision of the citizens. And that happens in many ways. That happens from hearings and from various methods of input. You’re simply not a technical or necessarily a specific solution here. You’re seeking a broader vision, and within that broader vision a plan is developed. But if it’s just mediating between competing interests then that’s more of a status quo achievement rather than a visionary achievement

(Editor’s note: It’s not an imposed vision. Your job is not to mediate between competing interests. Your job is to develop and put into place the community vision. If we want status quo, we don’t need you.)

And when the citizens are involved, you encourage people to think about the future: What are the highest aspirations we can have for our neighborhood or our community? What do we love about where we live? What do we want more of? What do we not like so much about where we live? What facets of the physical development – our infrastructure or other development that are less than excellent that we would repair or improve? And so you need a great planning director and then, obviously, the political support. But it’s not self-imposed – you’re not looking for a planning director who’s going to say, "Ah ha! I know the vision for Charleston or Columbus or Los Angeles or Seattle." But rather, "I, working with the elected officials and working with and engaging the community, can help shape that vision and then help recommend the tools and the processes to put it into place."

(Editor’s note: One more time: engage the community, help shape the vision and use good processes to put it in place.)

Excellent advice from an excellent mayor.

1 comment:

Joe Moraca said...

Good post. We "Sarasota" need to keep working on the vision thing so we have a wise strategic plan.

I am not sure the comprehensive plan is it...