Looking Ahead in 2011

Albany’s 30-page Strategic Plan is the kind of document most people never read.  According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book, the U.S. has a 99 percent literacy rate; so it’s safe to assume that most people in Albany could read the Strategic Plan if they were motivated to do so.  I believe the Plan is not widely read because it competes against much more attractive ways for citizens to spend their time.

My hope is that if people are not willing to take the hour or so it might take to read the Strategic Plan, they may accept reading the following short summary:

The City Council adopted mission, vision, and value statements for the organization that communicate aspirations to provide “…quality public services for a better Albany community.”  Our values could easily be labeled “Things our Parents Taught Us,” as they include honesty, dedication, responsibility, excellence, teamwork, and compassion.  If we continually work to accomplish our mission while observing our values, we believe we will achieve our vision of “a vital and diverse community that promotes a high quality of life, great neighborhoods, balanced growth, and quality public services.”

Our plan is organized under the four themes of “Great Neighborhoods, A Safe City, A Healthy Economy, and An Effective Government.”  Each theme includes goals and objectives to help make the themes reality.  Most of the objectives are very specific, such as increasing the number of transit system riders by five percent by the end of 2014 or reducing the cost per item circulated at the library by 15 percent by 2014.  Ideally, departments allocate resources to achieve the goals and objectives, although I believe this is still a work in progress.  Some of the goals were set when resources were more plentiful and achieving them would not necessarily come at the expense of potentially higher priorities.

The Strategic Plan is not engraved on stone tablets, meaning it is designed to accommodate changing circumstances while retaining a commitment to its primary themes and goals.  The Plan’s performance measurements track the different departments’ progress (or lack of it) toward achieving important objectives.  Our Finance Department, for example, recognizes that receiving the Government Finance Officers Association annual awards for excellence in financial reporting and distinguished budget presentation are an important part of being an effective government.  We commit the time and resources necessary to achieve these benchmarks, and there would be consequences if we did not. Meeting or exceeding accepted standards for excellence is a good way both to achieve and demonstrate an effective government.

I have often used a quotation attributed to former President Dwight Eisenhower, who said, “Planning is everything; the plan is nothing.”  I think he meant that the time and effort associated with creating and sustaining a plan provide the common understanding and teamwork needed to accomplish important goals.  Albany’s Strategic Plan exists to achieve this purpose.