|Walking, biking, busing, and No Third Bridge|
(Summarized from the Open House)
|Walking, biking, and busing was consistently mentioned|
more on the composition of the "stakeholders.") It erred too far in a harmonizing direction and didn't grapple with the full scope of some real disagreements. Flushing these out into the open and facing them more squarely will almost certainly be necessary for the success of the overall project.
|Situation Assessment Report|
Finding 3. Elected officials and staff do not have coordinated systems to make, implement, and evaluate policy decisionsThis is a real structural shortcoming. So much of the decision-making is ad hoc and driven by the politics-of-the-moment, and is not actually driven by any "big picture" vision or strategy, or even our existing policies.
Although residents expressed satisfaction with City services overall, elected officials expressed uncertainty about their understanding of community priorities and choices for strategic service delivery that align with those priorities. This uncertainty results in part from the City’s decision - making processes.
The City has two processes by which it makes citywide policy and budget decisions. The first is Council Goals, a biennial process in which the Council identifies broad priorities and initiatives to achieve those priorities. The second is the citywide budget process in which the City Manager’s Office and Budget Office set budget targets for each department; departments create budgets that fit within those targets; and the Citizen Budget Committee and City Council review, hold public hearings, and approve those budgets.
That dual process has some limitations. First, the Council Goals process is short-run and not supported by policy evaluation. Consequently, staff and Councilors interviewed for this assessment felt the organization was drifting without answers to critical questions like: What is the City’s longer-term vision for the future? Is the City making deliberate progress toward that vision? Does that progress align with community priorities? Second, in the absence of clear direction from Council on relative service delivery priorities, staff makes policy decisions through the budgeting process about what services to provide at what level.
The professional literature on high - performing institutions supports some practices that Salem has not fully implemented. In a high-performance government, the City would have purpose statements (vision, mission, values) that answer the question, What is the City’s vision for the future? The City would have a package of forecasting, planning, and evaluation systems to determine the roadmap to achieve that vision and track progress. Those systems would allow Council to:
Within those systems, there would be a clear delineation of roles and expectations. Council and staff would work effectively together to make policy (Council, with support from staff), implement that policy (staff), and evaluate outcomes (Council, with support from staff)
- Coordinate with staff to collect information about community priorities
- Use that information in conjunction with a budget forecast to develop a citywide strategic plan that describes strategies and actions for a five - year period
- Ensure that department - level strategic plans align with the citywide plan
- Develop an annual Council work plan and budget that align with the citywide strategic plan
- Evaluate performance annually on the strategic plan and work plan actions, with reports back to Council and the community
- Restart the process at the top.
But the problem may not so much be the absence of a strategy; rather, it might be more that there is a disconnect between words and action.
We have observed with every annual and quarterly report that we have no real assessment on Enterprise Zones, on Urban Renewal Grants, or other tax incentives and public subsidies - we have no real idea how well they accomplish or align with City policy goals.
More particularly of interest here, we say we want to reduce drive-alone trips, but yet we struggle with facilities for walking, biking, and busing, and devote an insane proportion of resources to the Salem River Crossing. Our budget and staffing doesn't always (or too often doesn't at all!) align with our cheerily professed goals or values.
This is consistent with another finding:
Finding 8. The City’s Comprehensive Plan does not provide an overarching vision and plan for how the City will growPart of the problem is that the Comprehensive Plan isn't taken seriously.
What's not clear about these Comprehensive Plan (IV)(J) Policies 11-18? The problem here isn't that there's not a vision. There is a vision. The problem is that the vision is paid only lip service.
|decrease reliance on the SOV|
|decrease overall traffic demand|
(Salem Area Comprehensive Plan,
Section J on Transportation)
The City already has these juicy policies! We just freakin' ignore them.
Finally, and again something that does not square with the extravagant resources allocated now and projected in the future to the Salem River Crossing:
Finding 12. The City has deferred maintenance on critical infrastructureI think the report may overstate the absence of high-level guiding strategy, and instead pays insufficient attention to the ways the City fails to execute on and later assess policies or values that have been clearly stated.
As with many local governments across the country, the City of Salem has a significant infrastructure problem. Infrastructure refers to the tools, equipment, buildings, land, and machinery that City employees use to produce services and products for residents. To hold the budget line during the recession, the City focused on the provision of direct services and reduced its infrastructure repairs and maintenance. “Catching up” on the backlog of infrastructure repair and maintenance is a difficult task for which the City has not allocated sufficient resources....
A cursory analysis, which should be revisited and fleshed out, indicates that the City could be underinvesting in its infrastructure by as much as 100%+.
In the general talk about the Strategic Plan, it had not been clear that the Plan was explicitly to be linked to the Budget process, so it was nice to see that called out in the Staff Report.
As part of the Fiscal Year 2016-17 Budget development, the Budget Committee and City Council discussed the need for an overarching plan to guide future decision making as the community and organization change.So, lots to chew on, and hopefully Council will take the time to assemble a strong and compelling vision - and then implement what is necessary actually to do it. Much of the problem is not the technical one of lacking strategy, vision, or policy, but instead is the political problem of actually doing what we say we're going to do.
(See previous notes on the Strategic Plan process here.)