Since November, Alexandria City Council has been developing a strategic plan. Next week there will be a public hearing on that document.
The process began at Council’s annual retreat last fall. “We wanted to take some time to look at the city in terms of both short and long-term planning,” said Mayor William D. Euille. “The purpose was to think about a vision for what we wanted the city to be like in 2015 and then to set goals for reaching that vision.
“We have held two community forums and have worked for many hours with our consultant to develop this strategic plan. It is not just going to be put on the shelf somewhere and forgotten but will be considered each year and the community can look at the document and see how we are doing in meeting the goals that we all set together,” he said.
A strategic plan is a guide to the Alexandria community’s future. According to the strategic plan document, “The vision is what we want Alexandria to be in 2015 as defined in value-based principles to guide policies, plans and decisions. The plan is the city’s road map for five years on how to reach our vision with achievable goals, measurable benchmarks and specific actions for 2004 and 2005.”
Council defined the vision as: (1) Alexandria is a vibrant historic city which ahs unique livable neighborhoods, multiple urban villages and a thriving economy; (2) The Alexandria community embraces our diversity, values our beauty and special natural resources, cares for all our members and works together for the whole community’s betterment; (3) Alexandria residents enjoy a healthy and safe urban living and have a wide range of exciting leisure opportunities; and (4) Alexandria city government engages the entire community, is financially sustainable and provides quality services that are valued by the community.
IN GENERAL, members of the community who attended the two forums agreed with this 2015 vision. They defined the vision as “Alexandria 2015 is a vibrant, diverse, historic, and beautiful, city with unique neighborhoods, and urban villages where we enjoy convenient living and take pride in our great community.”
About 75 people attended each of these sessions. “I was pleased to see how well represented the community was at these forums,” said Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Peper. “They took this process as seriously as we did and worked hard with us to provide input. This strategic planning process must be collaborative so I was pleased to see so many members of our community involved.”
Council set seven goals to be reached by 2009. Each goal contains a number of mechanisms for attaining them. Members of the community were asked to comment on each goal as to its significance to the community.
The first goal is a city government that is financially sound, efficient and value oriented. Members of the community said that city government’s mission was to be “financially sustainable, provide excellent services that are valued by its customers and engages the entire community as it plans for the future.”
The 2004-09 action items for meeting this goal include a city services audit and measurement benchmarks; review and prioritize capital projects; study new revenue sources; evaluate city government space needs; study user fees and set appropriate policies; and locate and obtain a site for a new police station.
It also includes: establish a nonprofit funding policy and grant process; conduct a civic academy for residents and continue the police and fire academies; develop a city branding and marketing plan; develop a citizen corps for emergency management; complete renovations at Patrick Henry and Charles Houston recreation centers; plan for the expansion for Chinquapin Recreation Center and determine funding; conduct an outsourcing study for mental health mental retardation and substance abuse services; evaluate the need for a new sports facility and upgrade the city’s web site.
“We have really tried to set reachable goals for the next five years and that is what makes this document important,” Pepper said. “Every year, we will look at how we are doing in meeting these goals and the community can look at that as well.”
GOAL NUMBER TWO is “a strong local economy that is growing in small businesses and job opportunities.” To meet this goal over the next five years, the city will determine specific goals and policies related to economic development; identify and evaluate the concerns of small businesses and develop recommended policy changes to be even more small business friendly; define the city’s goal, work with community partners and complete a feasibility study with recommendations for a heritage museum and center for culture and art; review areas currently zoned for office and warehouses and identify additional locations which might be appropriate for such facilities; investigate ways in which people can better live and work in Alexandria; explore ways to increase tourism; conduct a telework study; complete the study of a new visitors center and make a decision on the direction and city actions and continue monitoring completion of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office complex.
THE THIRD GOAL is quality development and redevelopment that has been planned in advance. Council has defined 13 different strategies for meeting this goal. They include: Landmark Mall redevelopment; Hunting Tower/Hunting Terrace study; Braddock Road Metro station area plan; in-fill development study; waterfront development plan; affordable housing policy and strategy; Potomac Yard area; King Street retail study; Mt. Vernon Ave. plan; Metro station at Potomac Yard; study developer fees; land use master plan and establish the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation.
A city that respects, protects and enhances the natural environment is Council’s fourth goal. Strategies include: the open space plan implementation; using clean fuels in city buses and other city vehicles; complete a report and develop policies for “green”” city buildings and facilities; develop environmental benchmarks and measures; study the Mirant Plant; develop a public arts policy; complete an urban forestry plan; develop a comprehensive solid waste management plan; finish the Four Mile Run improvements study; complete 15 city gateway beautification projects and develop a plan for mitigating negative impacts from the Oronoco outfall.
Goal five is to have public schools that are among the best in Northern Virginia. The city will work with the public school system to develop an education excellence strategy; will monitor completion of the new T. C. Williams High School; review current programs for early childhood intervention strategy; evaluate and recommend vocational education programs; expand before and after school programs; evaluate the city’s teen pregnancy reduction program and complete the renovation of the Minnie Howard ninth grade center.
The sixth goal is an integrated, multi-modal transportation system that effectively gets people from point A to point B. Strategies include: monitoring the completion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project; develop a comprehensive transportation plan; continue with traffic calming and signalization programs; fund and construct a new DASH bus maintenance facility and upgrade shelters; complete expansion of the King Street Metro platform and city bike trails and continue pedestrian improvement projects.
THE LAST GOAL is to have a caring community that has maintained its human and social infrastructure. Over the next five years, Council will review recommendations and develop new policies to better meet the needs of the city’s elderly residents; will determine policies for long-term healthcare benefits for low-income residents; study the need for a city assisted living facility; secure funding and initiate a “safe haven” program for the homeless; complete the relocation of the city’s health department and club house program for persons with mental disabilities; expand the number of foster homes in the city; address the issue of accessibility in rental housing for persons with disabilities; expand the home rehabilitation loan program and assist the Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services in opening a new community health center.
“After the public hearing, we will put together our final draft and vote on the entire strategic plan,” Pepper said. “It’s important for members of the community to come and speak on this subject so that their input can be included in our final product. After all, this will guide the city for the next several years.”