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City’s ‘Roadmap for roadmaps’ nearly complete

Hard part comes next: Implementation

They city tweeted out this morning a link to their Roadmap for Growth overview.

First unveiled in 2011, the Roadmap is now in its final year. According to the city, there are 63 projects in the nine supporting pillars of the Roadmap (plus one supporting plinth) — and just as many mixed metaphors.

Looking over it this morning (and not for the first time ) I was struck by how much of the roadmap was actually planning. More than that: They were plans to make a plan.

Now, it's a cliché that "failing to plan is planning to fail", but the Roadmap for Growth takes planning to a new level. Fully half of the projects are just coming up with a "strategy" or a "plan". Similar ideas like "initiatives" and "policies" make appearances as well. It's not just planning — it's meta-planning.

It is tempting to call this an indictment of previous city halls. Were we floundering and governing in such an ad-hoc way that the incoming council and new administration after the last election felt that the most important thing was to come up with new plans?

Or is it instead more a reflection of the process- and manager-heavy current adminstration?

It's almost hilarious to think of how this all got started: "We need to plan a meeting so we can draw up a plan to make some plans."

Certainly, there was no shortage of plans under the Burgess, Atkinson and Borotsik mayoralities — although those three mayors tended to love hiring outside consultants instead of in-house planners.

Now, developing an in-house plan, if done correctly, is probably a better way to get buy-in from all the city employees who will be involved in putting the plan into practice. Certainly during the 1990s and 2010s, there were many a wry joke about consultant plans just gathering dust on City Hall shelves.

But outside consultants are a great way to shake things up when they're staid. Just asking the people who are already in the room will tend to get you an echo chamber of yes-men. An outsider can be the best way to have a view from outside the box.

But where previous administrations failed was in taking those plans and acting on them.

The current administration, nearing the end of this lengthy plan-planning phase, has yet to really be tested in that way.

Something like the Derelict Building Strategy, for example, is obviously important to Brandon, which has struggled with vacant buildings in the past (Brown Block being only the most egregious example). According to the Roadmap, this is a completed item. They say:

A Vacant and Derelict Building By-law has been implemented that addresses non-compliance of building safety and property standards and allows for tighter controls of maintenance and monitoring of vacant or boarded-up buildings.

But the proof will be in the pudding. How well will this strategy be enforced? Will derelict buildings just be boarded up a little bit better? Or will this encourage owners to actually keep them from getting that far gone?

Or, will the city end up just taking ownership of more too-expensive-to-fix buildings — either through purchase or tax sale — and have to shoulder the demolition costs themselves?

It's too soon to tell how this — or other aspects of the Roadmap For Growth — will perform in the future, but I suspect it will come down to the amount of political will that is in City Hall for enforcing it. After all, it's a creation of the current council and administration, but there are bound to be some changes around the council table before next year.

Once the municipal election gears up in earnest, I think it will be very intersting to grill some of the candidates on what usefulness they see from this exercise, and whether they will be diligent in enforcing it in the future.

I would hate to see four long years of planning to plan simply get placed on the shelf to gather dust, right beside decades' worth of consultants' reports.

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