Strategic Planning Strategies

The Washington Post is reporting that the County wants to transform the Strategic Plan from a “functional to transformative” policy. I wasn’t sure what “transformative” means in this context and, after reading the dictionary, I’m still not sure. Generally I’m predisposed toward “functional” policies that improve implementation and accountability.

The Strategic Plan is important because it drives the budget. Categories that are named as primary goals in the Strategic Plan are funded; other unnamed categories are pretty much out of luck.

This year the County’s report says that citizen input from a variety of surveys, meetings and written comments, consistently showed four priorities:  Education, Environment, Public Safety, and Transportation.

Under the newly proposed “transformative” approach, it appears these citizen priorities would be mixed-and-matched under a few categories with trendy, feel-good names:  Sustainable Neighborhoods, Sustainable Families, Sustainable Businesses.

It’s an interesting idea but not a new one. When the last Strategic Plan was finalized in 2003, Supervisors responded to citizens call for the environment as a primary goal by mixing-and-matching environmental needs into “Community Development.” At that time, the Board said that protecting the environment is really a part of everything we do here in Prince William County so it doesn’t need its own category.

However, five years later environmental needs are not only still largely unfunded, they are rarely even considered when plans for locating new schools and roads are finalized. Funding for environmental staff gets nary a mention and citizen calls for County investments in open space preservation are met with dismay.

Mixing-and-matching environmental goals into Community Development was an interesting idea but it didn’t work. In fact, environmentally speaking, we’re in a hole and still digging. It is difficult to understand why the County would consider expanding a failed approach but perhaps some light will shine before the policy is finalized.

Financial constraints are also a large part of the current Strategic Plan debate. County Executive Craig Gerhart has warned Supervisors that the condition of the general fund is going to get worse before it gets better and publicly expressed concern that government may not be able to meet citizens expectations.

Vague goals and confusing policies might take the heat off during tough times, but those “benefits” are short lived at best. Open government, clear policies and accountability are key tools for achieving public goals and should be the foundation of all policies, including the Strategic Plan, in good times and bad.

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2 comments so far

  1. Parker on

    The only thing we can be sure that “transformative” means is something that is not “functional” That must mean the plan will be intentionally non-functional? Who is this that is openly advocating against a functioning county government again?

  2. Janet Doyle on

    Environment will always be at the expense of proffers in PWC. Money trumps clean water, clean air, natural wetlands, etc. Nothing will ever change as long as this Board is in control.


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