Attracting more conventions to town. Developing target numbers for new businesses and job growth. Creating a customer service culture of “yes.”
During a quick but detailed study session today, the Tacoma City Council outlined these and other goals for the next two years as part of a comprehensive strategy that emphasized various economic development programs and initiatives among its top objectives.
In all, the council’s agenda — the byproduct of a recent all day council retreat to refine and update a three year action plan already underway — includes six umbrella categories under which council members have identified a host of issues to pursue.
They include economic development; education; sustainability/neighborhoods and housing; public safety; transportation and government performance (To see more details, we’ve included the council’s PowerPoint presentation below.)
“The good thing about this is, we didn’t start from scratch,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland, noting that goals targeted for this year and 2012 are key to “finishing what we’ve started” under the plan.
Council members have said that economic development discussions dominated the council’s recent retreat and have led to several ongoing and expanded initiatives that the council ranks at the top of its priority list.
Such objectives include creating a comprehensive economic development strategy for the city that promotes entrepreneurship, supports local businesses and will seek to enhance Tacoma’s standing as a destination for tourism, conventions and amateur and high school sporting events.
City officials have said that Tacoma’s lack of hotel room space has often been cited as reason for various conventions from choosing other cities to hold events — an issue the council will seek to examine.
Other economic development goals include creating an urban design plan for the city that targets density and incorporates existing plans, and targeting strategies to attract and retain high growth businesses, specifically in the information technology/security; clean energy/environment, health care and manufacturing fields.
Council members also aim to ensure the city develops and implements a branding strategy for Tacoma to accentuate its assets and attract national press.
“Sometimes it seems the only time you hear about Tacoma is when it’s negative,” Strickland said. “We want to make sure we’re proactive in promoting the positive.”
Among education goals detailed during today’s meeting was a primary objective to “continue to make education a civic priority,” Strickland noted.
Largely pushed by the mayor, the council will seek to accomplish this objective by seeking to implement recommendations from Strickland’s task force on education, which I recently wrote about here.
Amid funding cuts and rising costs that recently led to two branch library closures, the council will also seek to conduct the first comprehensive study in 20 years of the Tacoma Public Library system and its changing priorities.
Also ranking among the council’s highest priorities was “creating and maintaining healthy neighborhoods,” a goal the council will seek to achieve by expanding the community gardens program, adopting and implementing a new affordable housing policy, and implementing “attractiveness” strategies at city entry ways and by adding arts elements to neighborhoods.
Among other goals, the council will seek to implement a task force’s recommendations for making the city more energy efficient and eco-friendly; develop a formal historic preservation plan; reduce youth gang involvement and crime and continue and expand various public safety programs.
Transportation goals include improving the city’s transportation infrastructure and developing a plan to communicate accomplishments to citizens, creating a comprehensive transportation strategy and expanding street car service, among others.
The council also seeks to improve government performance in various areas, including better coordinating and streamlining potential duplicative services between general city government and Tacoma Public Utilities (media relations and government relations were cited as examples).
Other government performance goals include continued monitoring of the city’s budget and funding priorities, as well as creating a “customer service culture of yes,” by removing bureaucratic red tape and other barriers for citizens and businesses, as well as implementing technology to allow online payment of fines and fees.
Although council members ranked each issue by importance, council members said all of the goals are worthy.
“The fact that it’s on the list (means) they are important,” Councilman Marty Campbell said.
Councilman Jake Fey noted that while the council should be held accountable for ensuring that many of the goals are achieved, many other objectives on the list fall to City Manager Eric Anderson and his staff to accomplish.
“We need to see some progress on these goals (this year),” added Strickland, adding that Anderson is “enthusiastic” about tackling the priorities list.