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Sep 13

Strategy—Council Continues to Plan for the Future

Posted on September 13, 2021 at 2:27 PM by Melinda Mayo

As they have for the past few years, City Council gathered last week for a day to talk strategy.  At their annual Strategic Planning Retreat, Council reviewed their vision for the future of the community and the seven priorities they focus on, along with discussing the strategies used to advance on each of these.  Below are the highlights of the discussion:

Vision and Priorities

The Council retained their vision for the future of the community – essentially the same as it has been for the past several years:

The City of Roanoke is a safe, caring and economically vibrant community in which all have equitable opportunities to live, learn, work, play and prosper.

A vibrant urban center with strong neighborhoods set amongst the spectacular beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Progressing on this vision, of course, was never easy and has become increasingly challenging with the presence of COVID-19 and its many impacts.  Aware of these challenges, Council reviewed each of their seven priorities and the associated strategies to ensure their focus remains aligned with the challenges, and that how we as an organization are advancing on these priorities remains relevant.  The seven priorities remain (in order of budgeted expenditures):

  • Education
  • Community Safety
  • Human Services
  • Infrastructure
  • Good Government
  • Livability
  • Economy

Strategies and Actions

As important as the “why” of the vision statement and the “what” of the priorities are, it is the “how” of strategies and the “what” of actions that make the difference in everyday lives in our community. The Council discussed these and began making appropriate adjustments.

Education – The City allocates nearly $88 million in expenditures toward education.  The strategy includes an emphasis on early childhood learning, good K-12 education, pathways to success after high school and adult learning.  Specific actions include a continued focus on the Star City Reads program; support for learning recovery from the impacts of COVID-19; implementation of the Equity in Action program, which includes the development of a new vocational technical school on the William Fleming High School campus; continued support of the scholarship program at Virginia Western; and a stronger emphasis on developing pathways for youth and area adults toward job training and skills development to connect to growing job sectors.

Community Safety – The City allocates more than $73 million in expenditures toward community safety.  The strategy focuses on prevention, response, communication, and quality standards.   Specific actions include continuation of compensation increases initiated this year and last year to improve recruitment and retention, enhanced focus on gun violence addressing prevention, intervention and justice, and continued maintenance of accreditation and implementation of best practices.

Human Services – The City allocates nearly $44 million in expenditures toward human services. The strategy focuses on empowerment and prevention, and providing a safety net for those in need, with strong efforts at rapidly moving those in need toward self-sufficiency and resiliency.  Specific actions include the continued expansion of the Financial Empowerment Center; provision of social services; and increased emphasis on homelessness, including steps to mitigate the impacts to residents and businesses, and enhanced emphasis on addressing disparities in health outcomes.

Infrastructure – The City allocates more than $28 million in expenditures toward infrastructure.   The strategy is to provide the infrastructure, technology, facilities, and equipment necessary to support sound neighborhoods and business districts.  Specific actions include continued expansion of sidewalk and street repair efforts; timely acquisition and upgrade of facilities, equipment and technology; and increased attention to needs associated with climate adaptation.

Good Government – The City allocates more than $21 million in expenditures toward good government.   The strategy is to provide the best administrative support and high-performance services possible, ensuring efficient and effective service delivery is aligned with responsible financial management.   Specific actions include continued enhancement of the budgeting process to increase the emphasis on budgeting for equitable and empowering outcomes; an enhanced capital improvements program; and continued refinement of personnel practices to attract and retain necessary talent.

Livability – The City allocates more than $19 million in expenditures toward livability.  The strategy is to provide the best facilities and amenities possible, and to engage directly with community members in shaping the future of the community.  Specific actions include plans to update and modern our parks and recreation facilities; enhance the youth sports programs; continued modernizing of our libraries; and enhancement of the existing greenway system.

Economy – The City allocates about $5 million in expenditures toward economic development.   The strategy is to focus on supporting business and asset development, and promote the community and the business opportunities that exist, along with job growth and workforce development.   Specific actions include expansion of workforce development efforts, with a specific emphasis on connecting local residents to job growth in the sectors of healthcare, biomedicine, outdoor recreation, and advanced manufacturing; as well as an enhanced emphasis on supporting the development of complete neighborhoods and community hubs.

What’s Next?

As in the past, the Strategic Planning Retreat is just a step in the process—a process that began with community conversations, surveys, and meetings; and which will include further refinement of the information provided at the retreat, additional presentations and, in February, approval of the revised strategic plan, which will provide additional guidance to the development of the annual budget.  Residents are encouraged to remain engaged by following along via the City’s website, attending City Council meetings in person or through the City’s Facebook livestream, social media, and other news outlets so that you can continue to help shape the future of our City.

-- Bob Cowell

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