Tacoma to spend $300,000 to craft new vision

Staff writerMay 30, 2014 

A city of Tacoma 10-year strategic plan is in the works, one that comes with a $300,000 price tag. City Council members say it will be worth the expense.

The plan is about “redefining Tacoma” and what services the city should focus on, said Councilwoman Victoria Woodards. For instance, if residents say they want to attract a certain type of business, then the city can tell its economic development department to focus on those industries.

“While the cost may bother some people, and I understand that, if we don’t make any investment in thinking about (the city’s future), then our city will continue to grow and we will be reacting without a plan,” Woodards said Thursday.

The strategy was called for by a task force that met last year to examine the city’s budget and policies to look for ways to save and raise money. It recommended creating a long-term vision for the city to guide the City Council’s budget and policy decisions.

“As part of this, it will be important to determine what level of city services are truly affordable within the city’s revenue stream,” the report from the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force said.

Councilman Robert Thoms said the council is committed to following through on the task force’s recommendations.

“I think it’s a very useful exercise and one we were asked to do,” he said of the strategic plan. “… They felt that we did not have an encompassing vision for what we wanted to do.”

Helping the city formulate the plan is BDS Planning and Urban Design of Seattle, which has worked on many similar projects throughout the Pacific Northwest, according to its website.

The firm plans to use public meetings, online forums and participation in festivals to ask Tacoma residents what their vision is for the city and what would make it a better place to live, work and play.

“(The project) needs to resonate with all residents,” said Kimbra Wellock, who leads the branding of the project and outreach to community members. “It really is an opportunity for residents to participate in this and make sure it’s everyone’s vision.”

Wellock, who is with a public relations firm working for BDS, said the strategic plan’s branding effort began with 43 variations of the project’s name and tagline, “tacoma 2025, shared vision | shared future,” and 12 drafts of the logo. City staff picked the winning logo, which includes a glacier-capped mountain, the cable-stay bridge on state Route 509 and an outline of the Tacoma Dome.

A steering committee comprised of city staff and a dozen community leaders will guide the strategic planning process and has met once so far. Rose Lincoln Hamilton, head of the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and a steering committee member, said she is convinced that unlike other plans that gather dust on a shelf, this one will get used.

“I’ve seen a progression in the city where they are much more conscious about really using citizen engagement and voices to help guide strategy,” she said.

The city will incorporate the community surveys it send out every four years to gauge how residents feel about life in Tacoma. Some 3,000 households have received the latest version of the survey, and their answers will help guide the city’s strategy, said city spokeswoman Maria Lee.

Tyler Shillito, a downtown attorney who was a member of the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force, said he hopes the city uses the final document as a budgeting tool.

“I hope they follow through with it if it’s a plan that reflects the people’s intent,” Shillito said. “A lot of businesses, governments and cities will spend a lot of time determining what the plan is and never follow it.”

The last city strategic plan was called “Tacoma Tomorrow, 2005-2010” and was drafted after a two-day internal process run by city staff, said former mayor Bill Baarsma. It aimed for a “safe, healthy, livable community,” “a balanced, vibrant economy” and “a results-oriented government.”

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542

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