Sunday, July 19, 2009

Goals, Strategies, and Action Items

As the next step in our goal setting process, the council has been asked to submit action items for each strategy/goal that we agreed on. [The exact terms have changed through the process, but I am calling my submissions "action items" since I aimed to make them items that we can begin to take action on in the near term and on which we can make measurable progress. ] After all council members submit their items, we will receive a listing of all the items and discuss them further in committee meetings.

Below are my action items as submitted. Each could be expanded at length, and I intend to provide more detail on them as we move forward.

Strategy #1: Maintain a fiscally sound and sustainable city government that earns the trust and respect of its citizens and encourages citizen input and active participation in all city affairs.
  • Ensure that our employee compensation packages are in line with local employers and provide incentives for employee innovation which reduces costs.
  • Improve communication with citizens and businesses by ensuring that our website has all of the information people need and is readily accessible and user-friendly.
  • Track progress toward annual and long term goals by establishing defined metrics for department programs and publishing annual report and regular updates on website.
  • Form a youth council.
  • Enhance SBE program as recommended by MGT study to encourage participation of local businesses in city work.
Strategy #2: Provide proficient public safety and other city services through collaboration among agencies, sustainable environmental policies, utilization of technology, and proven innovations.
  • Streamline financial and other operations by increasing online usage (online bill pay, electronic paystubs, online RFP submittals).
  • Increase xeriscaping and native planting in parks to reduce maintenance, fertilizer, pesticide use.
  • Create one stop permitting and work with other regulatory agencies to reduce regulatory burdens.
  • Create a Citizens on Patrol Program.
Strategy #3: Prepare a responsible annexation policy and plan that provides for a pro-active approach to annexation with a focus on elimination of enclaves and improved service delivery.
  • Compile list of individual properties and blocks with split jurisdictions, non-city properties on streets only serviced by city (Walton St; Nobles St).
  • Create plan for council approval for waiving property taxes on selected property targeted for annexation.
Strategy #4: Focus on improving city esthetics by maintaining public property, updating the land development code, partnering with property owners, and enforcing property maintenance codes throughout the city.
  • Update land development code to encourage the construction of a strong, sustainable urban fabric (e.g., adjusting parking requirements).
  • Establish an overlay district for entrances and key thoroughfares that includes landscape/tree plan, updated codes, pedestrian orientation, etc.
  • Work with realtors, title companies, attorneys to create a team to assist in proactively clearing titles to facilitate property improvements.
  • Develop plan for undergrounding utilities with priority given to downtown and main thoroughfares.
Strategy #5: Encourage and facilitate educational opportunities that exceed traditional educational practices through city initiatives and collaboration with the school board, chamber of commerce, and other stakeholders.
  • Increase usage of library system, particularly by at-risk population by constructing new downtown library, increasing outreach and community awareness (open houses, library card forms at pediatricians), increasing programmatic offerings with related participation increases.
  • Enhance educational and recreation opportunities in community centers for all ages, from birth to seniors, including increasing partnerships with local organizations (e.g., Pensacola Little Theater) to enrich education programs and measuring educational impact on school aged participants.
  • In conjunction with school district, PJC, UWF, and chamber of commerce, inventory education programs to determine areas where city can augment education and workforce training.
  • Facilitate and encourage city employee volunteering in education (e.g., paid leave for volunteer activities).
  • Work with stakeholder groups (ECSD, employers) to explore creation of city charter/magnet school.
Strategy #6: Promote economic development through affordable housing opportunities, clear direction for the airport, the port and other waterfront property, and utilization of “best practices,” including green initiatives, proficient permitting, and public/private sector partnerships to encourage business development while preserving and strengthening the value and character of the city’s residential neighborhoods.
  • Facilitate the creation of mixed affordable, infill housing by targeting housing dollars, identifying city property which might be suitable for development, and establishing incentives (permit fees, tax incentives) for construction.
  • Work toward goals set for port by Maygarden port study.
  • Implement recommendations of forthcoming CRA master plan which includes the Gindroz plan.
  • Initiate green programs including becoming a Florida Green City, creating a dark sky ordinance, piloting integrated pest management, and encouraging recycling, reduction, and reuse of waste for both residential and businesses (including recycling goals for commercial franchises and recycling cans in parks).
  • Create a vibrant downtown and waterfront by facilitating events (e.g., closing Bayfront Parkway on weekends) and supporting private efforts (e.g., Evenings in Olde Seville).
Strategy #7: Establish a “quality of place” for all citizens through continual improvement and enhancement of the city’s infrastructure, assets, and properties to facilitate city, private sector, non-profit, and other stakeholders’ initiatives that will enhance the “quality of life” throughout the city.
  • Create a walkable/bikeable community by creating an inventory of existing sidewalks and plan for upcoming construction, design city wide bike map, and ensuring that areas that should attract high amounts of pedestrians (near schools, links between neighborhoods, etc) are safe and inviting to pedestrians.
  • Enhance parks and recreation facilities by replacing outdated park equipment with new, ADA-compliant facilities and broadening types of parks and contents (community garden, orchard park, natural vegetation, natural playground).
  • Support public transportation and other alternatives and create policies which encourage their use.
  • Support arts and culture by, for example, facilitating the construction and maintenance of cultural buildings.
I welcome your comments on these items or others that you think are important. I am hopeful that by going through this process the council and the staff will have clear direction on where we want this city to move in the coming year and well into the future.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On Gardens and Lights

Is Pensacola getting greener? Two tentative steps seem to be leading in that direction...

LED lights

THe first is a private sector initiative. Gulf Power is participating in a trial program to test new LED lights for street and area lighting. LED lights use 50% less electricity than conventional lights in delivering the same brightness plus they are longer lasting. For the next two years, Gulf Power will be testing this new technology near their Bayfront Parkway headquarters to assess the effectiveness of these lights. Previously LED lights have been demonstrated far superior to traditional lighting in stop lights (which explains why the city now has LED stop lights), and I am hopeful that the new street lights will be as successful. I also was pleased to learn that the fixtures they will install are partial cut-off--they are designed to light the road and walkways rather than the sky. I hope that the city can move toward full cut off fixtures for our lighting--we don't need to waste electricity and money lighting the sky.

Fricker Center garden

A second green initiative is a public-private partnership. The summer camp program at the Fricker Community Center has partnered with Home Depot to plant a vegetable and flower garden. This program gives kids and other participants a chance to learn about gardening and healthy food. For more detailed information on this project see the article in the Pensacola News Journal.

Programs such as this that make our parks more than green spaces and more than playgrounds, but an integral part of the communities they serve. Many urban lots do not allow the luxury of a garden. When asked where vegetables come from, many kids simply answer, "The store." But I believe the benefit goes beyond the flowers and vegetables that may grow there and any lessons about gardening. During our years in Boston, my husband and I had a small plot in the community garden (originally a World War II Victory garden). There, we met neighbors we might not have met, traded gardening tips and produce. It was a way of becoming part of a community. I hope that our city will continue to pursue more initiatives like this.