My Turn, Gene Hayden: Update Vision 2020 with specific goals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

Charlie Brown of the comic strip “Peanuts” once reflected on lying awake at night and asking himself, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice said to him, “This is going to take more than one night.”

Yes, updating Salisbury’s Vision 2020 Plan, adopted in 2001, is taking more than one night. And, by now, it’s become Vision 2025, as the plan’s life cycle has played out. Recently it was reported after five years (“Steering Committee says changes are needed,” June 24 Post), the Steering Committee doesn’t know how to address the issues. And, surveys/focus groups are still being done on the subject.

Soon, it’s going to be paralysis from over-analysis. And please, don’t let politics interfere.

As an aside, what’s happened to the $500,000 county branding project?

The promise of the city’s future is offered to those who dare to walk the walk of promise, and the committee has been willing to do so. The community, however, doesn’t know all the issues they face. They can only be like Will Rogers, who once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” So, what might be the problem(s)?

Could this plan have turned into the impossible dream?

As the community reads the current 2020 plan, doesn’t it seem to be based on rebuilding the city, rather than working with what’s there? No one can have it all, even if there’s plenty of money and a clean field of land to build on for perfect development.

The existing plan begs several questions. First, the plan isn’t humanly and financially possible with what the city can offer. And what are the priorities? Shouldn’t there be one leader for this enormous task rather than a panel of 38? Before a plan is enacted, might it be well to prune possible existing lemons that dilute time, effort, energies and finances? Is the answer to pick one small but necessary project and do it well? Then, build the next best project and do it well. After all, from little acorns, big oak trees grow.

As life has it, opportunity usually knocks once, procrastination bangs on a door forever. With the future conversion of the Empire Hotel and the proposed downtown park, it’s carpe diem time. Seize the day and use this as momentum to get more projects done.

It’s confusing to read “should” and “we will encourage” so often in the current Vision 2020 plan, under the heading of “10 Policies.”

This expresses a wish list as opposed to a specific plan being done for much-needed projects. The plan suggests reducing the use of cars. If this segment of the plan is successful, what might the committee do to replace the tax base by losing its five new car dealerships and 17 used car outlets? Would it be best to work with what is there?

What are the city’s weaknesses? Could it be a weak, static, or diminishing economic vitality? Slow population growth? What’s the answer to reducing crime in a small city? What about the property tax leakage from no pays?

And, wouldn’t it be wonderful to promote more sales and eliminate sales tax leakage from Salisbury’s citizens who go to other areas to purchase needed goods? What are the strengths of the city/county and how can the plan leverage them? Work with what is there.

When reviewing Vision 2020, readers might ask, “Where’s the mission statement, one core vision and a key strategy to guide and propel the plan?” Where are the performance measurements? If there’s no measurement, how can they know progress? If there’s no progress, they can’t learn or make corrections.

This plan might want to reflect a directive mission of enhancing the quality and safety of life, developing a thriving economy and supporting positive activities for its citizens.

Within the new plan, hopefully, there will be operative words of cooperation, agreement and trust. The community needs to see positive results in order to hold their support. The community needs you, but the committee needs them as well. We wish the best for the group.

And, one last thing: Some triumph is a much easier sell than lack of progress.

Gene Hayden of Salisbury is retired from business and as a business columnist.

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