By Justin Prince
Windsor City Council has approved the draft version of a new 20-year strategic vision for the city’s future.
The proposed plan, which was presented to and adopted by city council July 6, outlines three main goals for Windsor in the next 20 years – to create more jobs, remake the city's image to retain and attract residents and to ensure population growth. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens first announced his intentions to create a new 20-year plan during his inauguration speech in December. The city worked with Toronto and Ottawa-based consulting firm StrategyCorp Inc. for several months to gather information from city councillors and to prepare a structured plan for the future.
“It’s a good starting point,” said Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin after the meeting. “We got together and we worked on very high-level discussions, themes and recurring ideas … It’s step one out of a long process.”
The document outlines 23 points on how to achieve each of its three goals. Some of the ideas include streamlined and local economic development initiatives, more partnerships, planning developments to connect the city together and encouraging regional thinking. It also gives a list of strengths, including its proximity to Detroit and its fiscal sustainability.
It also included a list of weaknesses. The finalized document would serve as a foundation for current and future city councils and administrations for when they make decisions for its programs, services and infrastructure.
John Matheson, a partner and strategist at StrategyCorp, said the main goal of the process was to identify the biggest questions council had which would be relevant to Windsor over the course of the plan.
“The purpose of a strategic plan that covers a 20-year period is to carefully try and map out the things that you can map out while recognizing that there’s a lot of things that would be a fool’s errand to try and predict,” said Matheson to council. “It forces councils to think in a very different way to do a project like this.”
The plan also focuses on four specific civic components. Those components are the city’s image and brand; responsible, balanced fiscal and service choices; strengthening the city with innovative strategies to support neighbourhoods and districts; and local economic development, the last of which Matheson said all councillors were all concerned about. Some of the city’s weaknesses listed included economic restructuring and the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate was at 11 per cent in May according to Statistics Canada.
“The obvious concern that you all (city council) emphasized was ‘this is a fabulous place to live if you have a job, but there’s too many people here who don’t have jobs,’” said Matheson, referring to a quote from an anonymous councillor in the report. “And it’s directly not in the authority or ability of this council to solve that problem, but it is a problem that under the heading that you must work towards improving.”
The adoption of the draft version of the strategic vision is just the beginning of the process according to Windsor Chief Administrative Officer Helga Reidel. She said the bigger work would be “rolling out the plan and its projects” to the public for feedback. City council will also have to make their own adjustments prior to going to the public.
The city is also looking into different ways to hold consultations with the public, including online feedback and speaking with different communities and interest groups. The city also plans to consult the public about its plan at its annual ward meetings. The consultation sessions would eventually lead to the adoption of the finalized 20-year plan which will be tweaked over time by adjusting the city’s future budgets and four-year strategic plans.
“This is the first piece. This is the first step and this is the highest level step,” said Dilkens. “This is the product of the work we’ve already undertaken … We still have a lot of work to do. I’m sure we’ll bring them (StrategyCorp) back in at some point, but this concludes the work they were engaged to help us get through this high-level document. Now we got to start some work on our own.”
Dilkens said the plan will need to community’s support to work. The finalized plan is expected to be adopted at the end of this fall.
The full draft version of the 20-year strategic plan can also be read at http://www.citywindsor.ca/cityhall/City-Council-Meetings/Meetings-This-Week/Documents/Item%2013%20Windsor%2020%20Year%20Plan_Final_26%20June.pdf