Thursday, September 01, 2011

A Finishing Touch For The City’s Strategic Plan

I love the City of Durham’s new website for tracking progress under its new strategic plan. There is only one thing missing that would tie together the plan’s five goals:

All that’s missing is an overarching strategy that would interweave each of the goals into a “concentrated force,” the essence of good strategy. Strategy experts such as Al Reis liken an overarching element to a setting on a garden hose nozzle (in Durham it would be attached to a water barrel, of course).

Turn it one way, you have a fine mist that military strategists term “scatteration of forces”, turn it the other way and you have a powerful stream that can blast away dirt and grime.

After reading of the City’s goals closely, including the one named “Well-Managed City,” it seems to me that there is one overarching strategy that can tie each of them into a concentrated force.

It is called different things: aesthetics (one of the top three factors that predict resident attachment to a city,) beautification, appearance etc. I’ll use aesthetics.

By now City officials are sensing from resident comments about the number of newly re-paved road, just how much a different upkeep can make in perception. That’s just a fraction of what they will sense if they will just they tackle overall aesthetics with similar intensity.

Here are just some of the ways aesthetics can tie together each of the City’s goals:

  • Strong & Diverse Economy – This one’s easy. There is a correlation between visual blight and economic decline just as there is between scenic conservation and economic growth, both the traditional form deployed by the City and the visitor-centric economic and cultural development it jointly leverages with the County through the self-funded Durham’s community/destination marketing authority.

  • Safe & Secure Community – This one’s even easier. Both the well-proven “Broken-Windows theory” of crime reduction and prevention and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) correlate good aesthetics to reduced crime and perceptions of public safety.

  • Well-Managed City – Of course, good aesthetics will address the first objective through increased reduction of litter through recycling but will also increase property values under financial management and the reaction employees will get from residents will encourage them to try harder and feel more fulfilled in their work, especially the majority whom don’t live in Durham.

  • Stewardship of City’s Physical Assets – This is inherently about aesthetics including well maintained parks, landscaping around public facilities, clean streets and air and water pollution control is just good business and inspire private property owners to do the same.

To Durham’s credit, it was one of the first community’s to ban outdoor billboards way back in 1984, a bipartisan effort spearheaded by a Republican Council member from Hope Valley. Our community has done many things to foster and preserve sense of place. But we’ve really dropped the ball when it comes to aesthetics.

While some may think it may be too late to add an overarching strategy to the City’s excellent plan, the County is in a strategic planning process where aesthetics can be both adapted and/or then presented as an overarching strategy to tie both the City and County’s plans together.

Every strategic plan needs a overarching strategy that can synergize multiple goals into a concentrated force.

No comments: