Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Richardson City Council Goals - Part 2

The Richardson City Council recently decided on the City's 2019-2021 Statement of Goals. There's so much to say that this blog post comes in three parts. Part 1 covered the process. In part 2, I cover the (in)significant changes since last year's goals. Tomorrow I'll close with my biggest disappointment.

The goals get less and less detailed each term. This term, they are stripped down to a set of motherhood and apple pie principles that could easily apply to any of a thousand cities across America. Pop quiz: which city, Richardson or Peoria, Illinois, came up with this goal? "GREAT PLACE FOR DIVERSE BUSINESSES, DESIRABLE NEIGHBORHOODS, GROWING CITY." It's easy to guess that it's not a Richardson statement. The clue is "NEIGHBORHOODS." As in past years, that word doesn't appear anywhere in Richardson's goals. In contrast, the word "business" appears five times. It's obvious where Richardson's priorities lie.

Lack of attention to neighborhoods is a constant between last term's goals and this term's. What can we learn about what's changed? There's only one substantive change that I noticed. There's a new strategy ("Leverage media to effectively tell the Richardson story.") Nothing wrong with that, but I'm curious why the Council took four and a half hours to add just one single strategy to the previous list.

One sentence was deleted. "We focus on the future of the city" is gone and won't be missed. Were we in danger of focusing on the past? No time needed to be spent arguing against that deletion.

Our ambitions have grown. We go from wanting to be "locally and nationally" recognized to being "globally" recognized. Again, no time needed to be spent arguing against thinking big.

There's an interesting word substitution in that council members morph from being "positive" advocates of the City to being "responsible" advocates. Is that a simple recognition that sometimes the responsible thing to do is to be critical of the Council's decisions? If so, I hope it didn't take a lot of deliberation to agree to a change in support of free speech.

The "Rules of Engagement" now explicitly say that differing opinions should be listened to "in a non-partisan manner." Is it possible that change was inspired by this year's bimbo incident? If so, I wish the Council members' comments on that topic were recorded.

It couldn't have taken a long discussion to make multiple changes in tense (e.g., "We will communicate" became just "We communicate.") Someone really likes the Oxford comma (it's now all over the place), but I can't believe that required a long time to agree to all those changes. A few seemingly unnecessary thesaurus choices were made (e.g., "improve" becomes "enhance"; and "hear" differing ideas becomes "listen to" differing ideas). There's the addition of quotation marks to one word (we now want a City where residents call Richardson, not home, but "home"). I smile imagining the Council member proposing this change using air quotes, presumably unironically.

Maybe, just maybe, what took a long time was the decision to drop all of the tactics from the previous set of goals. The council's goals are now less S.M.A.R.T. than ever. There used to be 44 tactics identified for the then 10 strategies. Now there are 0 tactics identified for the now 11 strategies. Here is a sample of the tactics that used to be in the Goals Statement and are now missing. It's just a sample. There were many more.

  • Continue to implement the Parks and Recreation Open Space Master Plan
  • Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of effectiveness of traffic signalization
  • Develop a citizen academy
  • Evaluate short term visitor parking a[t] key City facilities
  • Review the senior property tax exemption in conjunction with the financial policy
  • Create a centralized resource for philanthropic giving on the City’s website and through other publications
  • Replace Lotus Notes office systems with Microsoft Office 365
  • Enrich employee leadership academy to provide skills development opportunities...
  • Support efforts of retail centers to optimize tenants
  • Actively support, promote, and partner with Collin County and Dallas County to advance coordinated development and redevelopment of infrastructure and transportation...
  • ... and many, many more not listed here

Call them goals, strategies, tactics or maybe action items, it is this last set of details that is the best scorecard of what the Council intends to do this term. Eliminating those 44 tactics leaves things like "Enhance the quality of life of our stakeholders." What does that mean? One of the old tactics under that strategy, "Continue to implement the Parks and Recreation Open Space Master Plan" was the kind of detail the public needs to change a pie-in-the-sky vision into a concrete commitment by our Council members (assuming the Open Space Master Plan has some details to guide the tactics). We are all worse off for the absence of such detail from the Goals statement this year. The Council should spend less time wordsmithing the Vision and more time agreeing on S.M.A.R.T. tactics.

Tomorrow, part 3.

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